Whether you’re standing in a voting booth on election day, filling out a ballot at your kitchen table, or waiting in line to vote early, choosing representatives from our communities to take care of the community’s business on our behalf is a pretty awesome privilege.
And a weighty responsibility too.
Voting is just one way to serve our neighbors, but it is a powerful tool to make sure that the larger systems which stitch together a country—everything from infrastructure projects like highways, to safety nets like unemployment insurance—benefit everyone.
After all, that’s what we want, right? The well being of everyone in our community. Or do we?
Elections can be a regular opportunity to check in with each other—including folks whose paths might not cross with ours in daily life—to make sure that we all have what we need to be well. Instead, especially in this election cycle, it seems we’ve taken the opposite approach, choosing to tear each other down at every opportunity.
It doesn’t have to be this way. While it’s your responsibility to decide how you will vote, there are some questions you might ask yourself before you cast your ballot, maybe as you’re waiting in line to vote—to make sure that the person you most want to be is who you are in the voting booth.
1. Have I listened to my neighbors?
Do I understand their needs, and dreams, and fears? Do I know what matters most to them, and why? Am I voting out of love for my neighbors and the wider community? Who will get cared for? Who in our community will be seen and heard if my preferred candidates win? Who might be left out?
2. Am I voting from a place of love? Or a place of hate—to punish those I don’t agree with?
Is frustration or fear leading me to only want to tear down? It’s hard, maybe impossible, to take care of the common good from a place of hate. If I find myself voting from a place of hate, frustration, or fear, it’s difficult to pivot away from that, and to build up something good.
3. Am I voting for candidates who model active listening?
Am I voting for those who listen to the voices and lived experiences of the full range of residents in our community? Are they committed to working across party lines, across ethnicities and faiths, to build systems that benefit our whole community?
4. Do my preferred candidates recognize the wider systemic issues that affect the lives of my neighbors?
What healthy systems will my vote help to build up? What harmful systems will my vote help to dismantle? Am I voting for candidates who are committed to working for everyone, not only those who look like me?
5. What is my next step after I vote?Marking my ballot is a single step in creating a thriving community. Am I thinking about ways, beyond my vote, to serve and empower my neighbors? To ensure the tide rises for all of us? And if not… I should go back to the first question on this list, and ask if I’m voting for the future I want for everyone.
It’s fair to say that across all political stripes there is anxiety building around the outcome of this election. We each have stories built up in our minds of what will happen when the winning candidates are finally announced. Many of us are afraid of violence promised by some.
And even if our preferred candidates and policies win on election night, that doesn’t mean the work is done. Far from it. It’s not just up to governments and elected officials to create a world where everyone rises. It’s up to us.
Make sure that the person you most want to be is who you are in the voting booth.
This is what we know for sure: we have the chance to bridge post-election divides. We can be a safe space in our community for those who need it. We can choose to listen, bear witness, and continue standing for those left out of the system.
We must be ready to meet this moment—to build connections across lines of division, and to offer perspective, power, and purpose for our communities as it searches for a way through. We are launching a special session of workshops to help you process through the election results and choose who you want to be moving forward.