Realizing a fully inclusive and participatory society, a society that actively pursues justice and equity for all peoples, involves ensuring everyone gets to vote.

In Florida, 2 million of our neighbors are not allowed to vote because they have been caught up in the criminal justice system. 25% of all Americans deprived of the vote are Floridians. It can take 13 years after satisfying all sentencing requirements before rights are restored. That’s a long time to be outside buy-in into society.

That’s 1 out of 6 without civil rights. That impacts 1 out of 5 families. That translates into 1 out of 4 children in poverty. That leads to 1 out of 3 who live with food insecurity. Of course not all of the links are direct. Some result from the larger social settings that are generated by how much we spend on prisons. The budget for state corrections now exceeds the budget for state universities. We’re doing something wrong.

Precincts with low voter turnout receive less attention from elected officials to address their concerns. It’s simple: votes and/or donations get serviced in government. We’d like to have other ideals, but that’s the reality. So do you know what your precinct turnout numbers are?

We’ve overlayed economic data with religious affiliation and voter participation data. There has been a 40 year downward matching trend for all three phenomenon: the economy, affiliation, voting. Together they support the virtues of democracy. Civic engagement is both a citizen duty and a religious obligation for most faith groups. Faith leaders have both spiritual and moral reasons for addressing equity and justice. Faith leaders can inspire sober, serious and sincere conversations on the questions of the day that convene community conversations that matter.

What are you doing to encourage voter registration, education, and participation?