UU Church Today, Society & Culture, Practice & Voice

Voter Fraud vs. Voter Deterrence: A call for Voting Justice

“Democracy is not something that once accomplished, has been forever achieved. No. Democracy is always up for grabs. Always in balance. Always requiring vigilance to keep it alive, healthy & thriving.”

— Rev. Stephen Furrer, East Shore Unitarian Church

Today, our nation is celebrating the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Members of our church have joined our wider community in marching in remembrance of Dr. King, calling for “Hope and Action: The Fierce Urgency of Now” in Tulsa’s 43rd MLK Parade.

One of the main things that Dr. King dedicated his life to was making sure that everybody had the right to vote. This year, considering everything that’s happening in our country and our democracy, to celebrate and commemorate the legacy of Dr. King, I’ve called on our congregation to bring signs to the MLK Parade, calling for Voting Rights and against voter deterrence and suppression. That is the message of our church and the focus of some of our justice teams again this year.

Voter Fraud vs. Voter Deterrence

I want to make an important distinction here, between voter-fraud measures and voter-deterrence measures.

Nobody wants fraud. Fraud means people who do not have the right to vote are voting. Or that votes are cast by people who do not exist. Or votes are being mis-counted.

Let’s be clear. There was no evidence of any significant voter fraud in the last presidential election. Every American, of every party can agree that we do not want and will not tolerate voter fraud. But, voter-deterrence measures have nothing to do with voter-eligibility.

Voter-deterrence is about limiting eligible voters from being able to vote. Some examples of voter-deterrence tactics include:

  • Reducing the number of locations or hours of voter-registration facilities.
  • Preventing college students from registering and voting where they attend school—where students usually reside during elections.
  • Reducing numbers and/or operating hours of polling places, making it harder for eligible voters to find times and dates convenient for them to cast their ballots.

In Texas, they passed a law limiting one drop box for mail in ballots per county. That means a county in Houston which has 4 million voters has one location to return ballots.

There are new laws that keep church groups and others from providing water or snacks to people waiting hours in line to vote.

How do any of these tactics limit fraud? They don’t. They only deter eligible voters.

It’s not about voter fraud, it is about making it harder for eligible to vote. We need to get up and stand up against such efforts. Democracy is fragile and it’s hard to replace once you lose it.

Our Unitarian values of human dignity of all people and interconnection of all life, call us to make sure that every person has a say in the laws that govern their lives.

If we are going to truly honor the legacy of Dr. King… let’s not just do it, one day a year. If we are going to honor Dr. King let’s help finish the work he started.

Let’s get up and stand up for voting access for all eligible voters. Let’s not let bad theology to destroy our democracy. Let’s hold on to our democracy while we still can.

Get up and stand up for our voting rights.

Get Up. Stand Up., full sermon delivered on Sunday, January 16, 2022.

“Our democracy in the United States is fragile. We have reached a watershed moment that will determine how we move forward as a nation. Despite its founding principles, we have never lived up to the promise of justice for all. “We the people” has never fully included everyone. It was only fifty-six years ago when the Voting Rights Act finally expanded and protected the right to vote for Black Americans. And it was only realized because of the prophetic leadership, organizing, and sacrifices of those in the civil rights movement.”

— Rev Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, UUA President

Rev. Dr. Marlin Lavanhar shared these words as part of his sermon, Get Up. Stand Up., on Sunday, January 16, 2022. Rev. Lavanhar is the Senior Minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He celebrated 20 years at All Souls during the church’s Centennial in 2021. Follow Marlin’s cartooning on Instagram, @MarlinCartoons. You can read more of his blogs on beyondbelief.online; All Souls exclusive blog sharing stories of our free faith, curated from the heartland.

Cover Photo: Dr Martin Luther King Jr votes as his wife, Coretta Scott King, waits her turn. November 3rd, 1964. Atlanta, GA. Bettmann Archive