From when I was a child, it has always bothered me that certain voices always get listened to, and others don’t. In the UCC, we value the voices that come from the margins as well as the center. We have congregational meetings to govern ourselves as a local body, and at our best, we believe that the Spirit can speak through all of us, and all need to be heard.
We also believe that we need to listen for the Spirit in some of the softest voices in the room—the ones who might hesitate to speak, who might need encouragement, who might even be telling us something that’s hard to listen to because it’s the truth.
In the U.S., we believe a democracy works best when every voice has a chance to speak, when all votes are counted, and when everyone eligible to vote can. In Minnesota, we live in the state with the highest rate of voter participation in the country, 78 percent, and so it’s easy to think that voter suppression is something that happens in OTHER states, like Texas or Florida or Wisconsin.
But in Minnesota, the most notable measure in something called the Minnesota Elections Integrity Act (H.F. 2732) is a Voter ID bill, passed in the Minnesota Senate in the 2021 legislative session. It would require Voter ID applicants to show proof of citizenship, proof of a Social Security number, proof of a current address, and a photo ID. A new ID would be required any time a voter moves to a new address.
Another measure in the act concerns provisional ballots, ones that are marked but not counted, which are cast by a voter who is not registered or whose registration status is challenged at the polls. For the ballot to be counted, the voter must show up at their elections office the week after the election to prove they’re eligible to vote. This would end Minnesota’s same-day voter registration. Currently, Minnesota is exempt by federal law from requiring provisional ballots, because the same-day registration system works so well already.
In the upcoming midterms and in the 2024 general election, we can anticipate frequent challenges of voters’ eligibility to vote, because organizations that want to suppress the vote are recruiting thousands of volunteers to serve as poll workers. There they would be in positions to challenge voters’ eligibility.
Finally, the bill adds challenges to absentee voting, requiring proof of identity and a witness or notary public to witness the signing of ballots. This would be a burden on elderly voters, students, armed services members, and anybody who needs to vote absentee. It also limits the number of absentee ballot drop-off sites and funding for election administration, further restricting absentee voting and making it harder on elections officials, too.
The threat to secure and easy voting matters because access to the vote is central to what it means to be a democratic country. There are people who don’t want certain people to vote, and they are doing all they can to make that a reality.
As people of faith who believe truth comes when everyone has a chance to speak, and as citizens of a nation where we make better policy when all are free to vote their conscience and have their voices heard, you and I ought to be concerned enough to work to secure and expand the vote to all who are eligible—and not to think we’re immune to voter suppression in Minnesota.
I’m organizing people with Isaiah around voting rights, because I believe the vote is the only path to dismantling white supremacy and creating the first multiracial democracy in history.