Earlier this week, I posted an article, written by Father Bob Roethel of Thomaston, GA, concerning the upcoming election. Though I really like the article, I had trouble with one sentence.
You have an obligation, both as a citizen and as a
Christian to take part in civil government, especially the election process.
Now, I agree, that as a citizen of the United States, as with any other country that has voting rights, it is important to vote, however, I do not believe one is obligated. In most elections in this country, one’s vote matters – counts completely. When you vote for the legislature, both state and federal, your vote counts, majority rules. Yet, when you vote for President, majority does not rule, just as former Vice-President Al Gore.
The Electoral College, put in place by our founding fathers, continiues to mislead the citizens of the United States into thinking that their voice is heard when they cast the vote for the Commander in Chief. Granted, there must be votes within this system for it to work, but it is possible for a candidate to win a majority of votes nationally, and still not win the presidency. Due to this system, all one has to due is win a majority of delegates, not votes. All one must do is win the large states, and essentially he or she will win the presidency. Yes, our constitution, and its amendments, guarantee enfranchisement for all males and females over the age of 18 who are citizens of the United States and who register to vote, however, citizens who vote in the states who do not have a lot of delegates, in many ways, truly do not have a voice.Yes, they can vote, and yes, their states do have delegates – and maybe, if the race is close, North Dakota’s 3 electoral votes may truly make the difference… but what are the odds?
If you look at the link posted above, you will see that the only “large” state listed in red (republican) is Texas, with 34 electoral votes, with the second largest is Georgia with 15. In blue, you have California (55), New York (31), Pennsylvania & Illinois with 21, Michigan (17). Swing states, Florida (27) and Ohio (20). Ironically, the map shows the majority of the southern United States in the red, the northern states in the blue, etc. Now, you can argue that if you win the big states, who are the big states because they have more voters, you should be the President of the United States, and that may be, but what happens when you win your “small” states by winning a huge majority of votes, but barely lose the big states. What happens when you win the popular vote – and its not even close, yet because you lost California, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, etc by less then 5% of the votes? The answer is simple, you do not become the President of the United States – in other words, in this scenario, the person, who the majority of the voters in the United States voted for, goes home, and the one who was able to campaign better in the larger states goes to the White House.
Now, I know this does not answer the article, but I wanted to talk for a moment about the electoral system of the United States. Is it important to vote? Yes, of course. Should you vote? It is your right to do so, gained and preserved by those who have preceded us for the past 200+ years. Yet, ironically, the country we broke from, Great Britian, has an electoral system which not only allows for the party who gains the most votes to win the most seats, but also allows for more then two parties, giving the opportunity for lesser parties to gain seats in their legislature. This country, who is “for the people, by the people,” who, as Fr. Roethel pointed out, has our Declaration of Independence begin, “We the People…,” does not completely allow the people to decide… and why was this? Why was the Electoral College put in place? Thats a good question. If we are truly created equal, then our votes should matter just as much as everyone elses does. We no longer have slavery, so the 3/5’s compromise is obsolete, also, education concerns – saying that ultimately the states would know best because of the lack of extensive education in the young country – are also obsolete. Were the founding fathers scared? Quite possibly, yet, it should not matter anymore. Yet, we still have the Electoral College, which, to me, reduces my vote to nothing more then a state wide contest, and once that contest is over, the vote no longer means anything, only the states won and lost. Is this truly a “We the People” process? Its not to me.
Now, going back to the “obligations” we have concerning the government. As Christ said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesae’s,” well, what is “Caesar’s?” Taxes are the first obvious answer, especially since that was the context in which Jesus says this, however, St. Paul in his epistles elaborates even further. We are to pray for and bless those in authority over us – i.e., in this case, the government. We are to support them and obey they law – at least in the case in were it does not disagree with Scripture – as Fr. Mike pointed out to me, even though the Apostles were banned from teaching about Jesus, they still did it – and even in this case, they still ultimately submitted, both Sts. Paul and Peter were crucified in Rome for their disobedience to the Roman Empire, but they went willingly – remaining to give honor, just not their worship.
Voting is not honoring those in authority over us – it is the process of selecting those who will be in authority over us. If we say that voting is an obligation – in the context of honoring those in authority over us, then we would be forced to vote for those who are in authority over us at this time, or in the case of this year, the party who is in authority – i.e. the Republican Party for President, and the Democratic Party – or the incumbents, in the other races. Also, if we believe, as St. Paul says, that all authority comes from God, and God places those men and women into positions of authority, then you could argue that, unless you know exactly who God wants in office, and you vote for that person, you could be playing a dangerous game – attempting to play God. Now, do I believe by voting you are playing God, no, but I also do not believe that we are obligated to vote – to we have that right, yes, is it an obligation, no. Is it a sin if you do not vote? I do not believe so. Are you a bad citizen if you do not vote? I do not believe so. Is voting important, again, yes, but to say it is an obligation I believe is incorrect.