Local Voters’ Resources and Notes on Voters’ Guides

Dear Group,

Washington State Midterm Primary Election ballots are in registered voters’ mailboxes by now. Vote! But don’t let your sense of obligation end there. Talk up the need to vote with anyone you suspect may cast a favorable ballot. Wear your Lisa Brown T-shirt to the grocery store, the library, out to concerts in the parks. Study your local races, make choices. Talk up your choices and your reasons for those choices with your neighbors and anyone you know who might have that race on their ballot too. Keep up the buzz.

There are a lot of overlapping territories that determine who appears on your particular ballot. The territories of this year’s elections (Primary and General) include statewide (U.S. Senator), U.S Congressional (#5, or “CD5” for us), state legislative district races, a slew of countywide offices, and a number of judgeships. (For an interactive Washington State map of legislative districts, click here.)

To most of my readers a vote for Lisa Brown for U.S. CD5 Representative and for Maria Cantwell for U.S. Senator are pretty obvious, but what about “down ballot?” The candidate bios and statements in the online voters’ guide (at MyVote.wa.gov) or the paper voters’ guide are useful…but not comprehensive.

I recommend the ProgressiveVotersGuide.com as a must-view resource. Candidates are evaluated based on endorsements of a range of progressive organizations. Importantly, the reason for the choice is stated in a short narrative that goes well beyond buzz words. I encourage you to check it out and recommend it to others.

There is another website worth visiting–mostly to observe the close linkage of certain segments of Christianity with the Republican Party. WeBelieveWeVote.com (seen advertised on local billboards) is an instructive…and, for me, a disturbing…tool. Have a look. Only Spokane and Stevens County candidates are presented. Candidates are evaluated entirely on their stands on certain hot button issues I do not recognize from my United Methodist upbringing: gender fluidity, civil unions, same-sex marriage, abortion, recreational marijuana, and, oddly, support of “electoral college reform” and “weak borders.” (You might wonder what “weak borders” has to do with the office of Spokane County Clerk…) This is not my parents’ Christianity (any more than, I suppose, the current Republican Party is anything like my parents’ Republican Party.)

As a confirmed United Methodist, the WeBelieve criteria for Christian faith and “alignment” are jarring. I went digging on the WeBelieve website and found this page, the “Pastor to Pastor” letter. Scrolling to the bottom one finds a listing of 97 local pastors who endorse this political website. Have a look. On my browser, if I hit COMMAND F (for “find”) I can type in a word to see how many times that word appears on the page. Here is a selection of findings from the pastor and church listings of WeBelieve: Methodist (0), Congregationalist (0), Episcopal (0), Catholic (0), Unitarian (0), Presbyterian (1-Lidgerwood), Baptist (12), “Life” (9), Assembly of God (5), Nazarene (3), Lutheran (3). Search for yours. (Note McMorris Rodgers was brought up in the Fundamentalist Baptist tradition, arguably to right of most of the denominations and pastors listed. She is “Highly Aligned” with this website’s political agenda.) That adds up to 33 Spokane area churches at least loosely identified with a denomination. The other 64 are apparently unaffiliated, that is, not officially connected to a denomination. 

WeBelieve knows it is skating on the edge of violating the IRS rules governing 501(c)(3)s and political involvement. They present a “Legal Do’s and Don’ts” page. I know there are many pastors who don’t believe, for instance, that the Second Amendment and “strong borders” are articles of Christian faith. I urge those pastors to read the “Do’s and Don’ts” and speak out against this political propaganda dressed up as Christian values. WeBelieve is a thinly veiled co-option of parts of Christianity by the Republican Party. It is a shame the donors to 501(c)(3) non-profits are not publicly identified. Is financial support offered contingent on political alignment? There is no way to know, but one cannot help but wonder.

WeBelieve has some use for me. It tells me for whom not to vote. WeBelieve represents few if any of the Christian values with which I was brought up. The values I carry from that upbringing include forgiveness, grace, tolerance, and understanding, not armed isolation and fear of the other.

I am heartened by the many Christians, both parishioners and pastors, I have met who still share the values with which I was brought up, people who are open, tolerant, helpful, people who work for justice, not restriction, people who don’t think “strong borders” and shoddy treatment of asylum-seekers is a Christian value, people who have not been co-opted for a political agenda by a Party that has lost its soul.

So do your research, engage, come out for the GOTV (get out the vote) canvassing, discuss, listen, cajole.