A long time ago I asked a fellow college student if she was excited to register to vote on her upcoming 18th birthday. My classmate replied, “Why would I do that, I’m not a political science major?!”
I never forgot her words. She asks an important question: Why should we register to vote?
In Pennsylvania, every citizen who wishes to cast a ballot to elect government leaders or respond to a referendum must first register to vote. On Election Day, registered voters choose which candidates they believe will represent their views and opinions and make the best decisions about how to run our municipality, county, state or the nation.
We should register to vote so we can lend our voices to the debate about how we want to be governed. Again, you might ask, why?
Because government affects us personally:
Every level of government makes laws that we must obey and creates policies connected with daily life. If you care about the safety of our roads and bridges, the education of children, the pick-up of trash, the quality of your drinking water, and the amount of taxes you pay, you should care about who gets elected to public office.
Because the government affects the common good:
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church” says the common good is to be understood as “the sum total of those conditions of social life which allow people as groups and as individuals to reach their proper fulfillment” (CCC, No. 1906). It also says that it is in the political community that the most complete realization of the common good is found. (CCC, No. 1910)
What are the concerns of the common good? You name it — a commitment to peace and justice, protection of the environment, civil rights, services that support basic human dignity like food, housing, work, education and access to health care, as well as free speech and religious liberty. The common good concerns the conditions we provide for the “least” of us: the poor, the vulnerable, the elderly and the very young, those still in the womb and the dying. The government does not create these essential human rights, but it can and should safeguard them. We should support leaders who respect these values and work for policies that uphold human dignity.
Because the government affects the future:
The United States Bishops stress the importance of civic engagement in “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” They remind us, “How we organize our society — in economics and politics, in law and policy — directly affects the common good and the capacity of individuals to develop their full potential. Every person and association has a right and a duty to participate actively in shaping society and to promote the well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
If we do not work to shape society now; if we do not uphold the dignity of the human person and help everyone reach their full potential, we jeopardize our future.
Register to vote
Campaign season is in full swing in Pennsylvania. You can’t turn on your television or radio without being reminded that an important election is coming up.
Catholics are called to be faithful citizens. We have a moral obligation to inform our consciences and cast our ballots in civil elections.
But no one can exercise their faithful citizenship in the voting booth without first properly registering to vote. There are several ways to do it:
* Visit your county voter registration office in person.
*Download the voter registration application, complete it, sign it and mail it in.
*Or sign up in person at a voter registration drive.
As a service to the Catholic community, the Bishops of Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference are partnering with the Knights of Columbus to organize nonpartisan voter registration drives in many parishes during the month of September.
Watch your parish bulletin for more details and log on to www.pacatholic.org for information about specific candidates in the coming weeks.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9, 2012. You do not have to be a political science major to be a good citizen, but if you care about the world around you, you should vote.
A. B. Hill is communications director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference — the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania. Stay up-to-date with Catholic news and issues at www.pacatholic.org, www.facebook.com/pacatholic, and www.twitter.com/pacatholic.