Every four years arrives both a great opportunity to participate in the democratic process and a brutal marathon of attack ads and speechifying that can exhaust all but the most partisan of voters. Presidential election years seem to combine the best and the worst of American politics, but what is undeniable is that for months on end, little else gets much attention. 

This election year, it would be a big mistake to overlook what else is on the ballot. As Brian Fraga reports (see Page 4), there are many ballot measures that require the attention of all voters, especially Catholics. The moral issues involved and the implications for our country are such that Catholics must school themselves in what the Church teaches on a variety of issues, from the treatment of undocumented immigrants to abortion, same-sex marriage and physician-assisted suicide. 

The Catechism reminds us that one of our most fundamental responsibilities as citizens and as Catholics is to vote.

In their document “Forming Citizens for Faithful Citizenship”, the U.S. bishops remind Catholics that we are obliged to “build a more just and peaceful world through morally acceptable means, so that the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity are defended.” This begins with opposition to threats to innocent human life. 

Ballot measures this year in numerous states have placed such issues before the voters. One of the most dangerous proposals is in Massachusetts, where a proposal would allow physician-assisted suicide. If Massachusetts, which has a large Catholic population, were to pass this measure, it would make it the third state to do so. 

Abortion is on the ballot in Florida and Montana, and in California there is a proposal to repeal the death penalty and make it retroactive to cover prisoners currently on death row. 

Catholic vote
The Catechism reminds us that our duty as a Catholic is to vote. Shutterstock

While these life issues are of tremendous concern to the Church, there are other issues that also touch on priorities that are important to Catholics. 

Four states have ballot measures that could end up legalizing same-sex marriages: Minnesota, Maine, Washington and Maryland. 

California has a measure to increase the penalties for human trafficking and impose new registration requirements on sex offenders. Maryland and Montana both have laws impacting undocumented or illegal immigrants. There are also initiatives in some states to discourage cooperation with the requirements of the health care reform law, and numerous tax initiatives to support schools and other public services. Florida has a referendum that would protect faith-based organizations receiving state funds. 

And if all of this is not enough, the makeup of Congress will have a critical impact on what happens in the coming four years. Every seat in the House and one-third of the seats in the Senate are up for election. All politics may be local, but these local elections will have a huge impact on the national priorities we face for the next several years. 

It is easy for some Catholics to get frustrated that neither party seems to reflect the full Catholic social agenda. It is even easier for some Catholics to ignore what the Church teaches and what their bishops are saying about the issues of the day. However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that one of our most fundamental responsibilities as citizens and as Catholics is to vote. This year, your vote will count more than ever. It may shape the moral climate of our country, impact innocent lives, make a statement for human dignity and human rights, and influence the national conversation for the next four years.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor