We’d love to cast a vote for compassion, freedom, justice. But they’re not on the ballot. So we can’t let the ballot reflect the extent we allow ourselves to envision the world we want to create. Hold that bigger vision in prayer or meditation before turning to the act of voting: a land where justice shall roll down like waters, and peace like an everflowing stream. A land where we bind up the broken and the captives go free. That’s the ballot our hearts and souls can cast, every day and with every activity.
But meanwhile, it’s time to vote! So the following are my ideas about how to turn that activity into a form of prayer.
Before your vote, do thorough research about all of the positions, even the tiniest. You may not love this research, but find organizations or friends who do love to do it and read what they wrote. Print up a sample ballot, mark it up, and stick it in your pocket. Clarify your mind. Scrambling around trying to sort through obscure races in the voting booth will take you right out of praying mode and into guilt and panic!
Walk into the polling place with gratitude that it is there. As the election judges check your name off the list, offer a moment of gratitude for them and their service. Offer a moment of gratitude for all of the check marks on that list, for all of the people in your neighborhood who take time to affirm their freedom and power to vote.
As you walk into the voting booth and set up your ballot, offer gratitude for all who have worked for your right to do so: founding fathers and suffragists, freedom riders and voting rights activists.
Now take out the ballot. Offer gratitude for all who would offer their time and their families and their lives for public service, whether you agree with any of their positions or not.
Look at the names on the ballot of the candidates you will vote for. As you check a candidate’s name, visualize that person’s strongest, most powerful, courageous and bold self. Vote for that candidate affirming the possibility of who they might become in office with strong community support and accountability.
As you check names, visualize yourself at your strongest, most powerful, courageous and bold self. Offer up gratitude for all of the civic leaders and organizations that will help you to be such a person. Commit to being a citizen activist. Cast an invisible vote for yourself beside each candidate’s name.
If you vote on community initiatives, take time to visualize all of the activists who worked to support freedom and justice about this initiative. As you check a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ box, imagine all of those affected by the initiative who vote with you. Especially imagine those who cannot vote, because they’re school kids, or their immigration status doesn’t yet allow them to vote, or because they served time for a crime, or for any other reason. Imagine your beloved ones who have died and won’t be casting a vote. Put them all into your pen and let them help you put in that check mark.
After you’re done voting, and despite the lines waiting, allow yourself a moment just to touch the ballot, to offer up a blessing for democracy itself, for fair elections, for the concept of one person one vote, for the lofty view of humanity which initially envisioned such a system, and which has expanded the notion of ‘personhood’ over the last several centuries.
Leaving the booth, smile at those around you, walk to the machine and insert your ballot, offering one last invisible bow of gratitude as you leave.