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What should Christians do if they want to see their values represented in government?
Barton said only about half of evangelical Christians registered to vote ever go to the polls, meaning some 58 million let others decide the nation’s future for them.
So the drive to get them registered and get them to the polls – even during primaries – is heating up. Barton also has put together what he says is a Christian voter guide.
“The difference with this effort is that we are encouraging people to start registering now and to have their voice heard in the primary and in the general [election],” Barton said. “We’ve never really pushed getting involved in the process early. We feel that’s vital; that’s something that has to be done.”
Barton is one of many evangelicals who urge Christians to get involved in the political process, a detail that has drawn criticism. Institute for First Amendment Studies commentator Rob Boston previously accused the Christian Coalition of supporting the Republican Party.
The website Theocracy Watch also asserts that the Republican Party has been taken over by the Christian Right and some in the GOP are now working to establish a theocracy, a state governed by clerics by “divine commission” institution.
Bunk, Barton says.
“From my standpoint, I don’t care [about political party links]. There’s not a thing in any of our releases that ever say vote Republican, vote Democrat, vote independent, vote Green, vote Constitution Party, Reform Party, whatever,” Barton said.
“There were 17 political parties on the ballot last time; there were 17 political parties on the election before. What we are interested in is people turning out and voting,” Barton said.
Barton said his group encourages citizens to obtain voter guides but doesn’t tell them which one to use.
“They may get one from the Chamber of Commerce; they may get one from NARAL,” Barton said. “What we want are people to be registered to vote.”
Barton said that he’s personally endorsed both Republicans and Democrats. He emphasized that his focus is on whether the candidate represents the pro-life, pro-faith and pro-family positions.
He acknowledged that the GOP more closely aligns with those positions.
“In the Senate, only 15 percent of the Democrats voted for the marriage amendment as marriage is a man and woman; only 13 percent of the Democrats voted for it in the House. Eighty-five percent of the Senate Republicans voted for the amendment and 87 percent in the House,” Barton said.
Barton said that the percentages were similar for the Ten Commandments Display Act and measures allowing voluntary prayer before football games.
“I’m not the one who casts the votes, those are individuals lining themselves up with a certain philosophy. We keep track of the measures coming through Congress,” Barton said.
“I would love to see 85 percent of the Democrats support pro-life, pro-faith and pro-family bills, but it doesn’t happen,” he said.
Voter registration drives usually are launched to bring new people into the process and to encourage voter participation. On the side of left-leaning constituents, a voter drive by ACORN resulted in the organization being charged with voter fraud.
The group was accused of setting quotas, requiring employees to turn in at least 20 completed registrations in order to keep their jobs. ACORN also was alleged to have run a “Blackjack 21” program giving workers an extra $5 per day if they had 21 registrations.
The Las Vegas Review Journal reported that Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said ACORN’s actions were clearly illegal.
“In Nevada, it is unlawful for a person to provide compensation for registering voters that is based on the total number of voters a person registers,” Masto said. “These practices are clearly a violation of Nevada law.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2008 that ACORN ran a national voter registration drive and although officially “non-partisan,” Sun-Times Washington correspondent Lynn Sweet said there was a pro-Obama slant to ACORN’s effort.
“Though officially non-partisan, the focus of the ACORN/Project Vote voter drive was on groups leaning Democratic in the presidential contest: African American, young, Latino and low income earners. They are called ‘historically underrepresented in elections’ in a press release issued by the group… Republicans would call these target groups Democrats,” Sweet wrote.
“ACORN/Project Vote ran voter registration operations in 21 states; included are the battlegrounds Colorado, Florida, Michigan (since move to Obama) Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,” Sweet also said.
The state of Virginia has off-year statewide elections and Virginia Planned Parenthood had a program that encouraged Planned Parenthood supporters to register to vote.
The Virginia Planned Parenthood website provided information on where voter registration forms could be located and the voter eligibility requirements.
“Virginia is holding statewide elections this year, which means that every seat in the General Assembly (all 140 of them) are up for grabs. Please see the information below on how to register to vote, voter registration deadlines, and general election information,” the website said.
Barton said that when evangelical Christians vote, their votes make a major difference.
“We’ve done this for 20 years, and when evangelical voter turnout goes up, and they vote their values, not their pocketbook, it has a massive impact on the caliber of the folks who get elected and the types of candidates that run,” Barton said.
“The easiest example was the 2010 election. It was the highest evangelical turnout on recorded totals. Instead of averaging 23 and 25 percent in the election, which is what we usually do, it was up to 30 percent in that election,” Barton said.
“As a result, we have the highest number of pro-life, pro-faith, pro-family folks elected to the legislatures, state and federal, of any previous election,” Barton said.
Barton said there has been a tangible result in what has come from the statehouses in this legislative session.
“We have 80 pro-life bills that have passed this year out of these new legislatures. The highest previous record for any year was 34 pieces of pro-life legislation,” Barton said.
“So we’ve tripled that in one election because we had a high turnout because we looked at a high percentage of new freshman at the federal level. There were 97 total new freshman Republicans and Democrats. And of that, 81 percent of those new representatives were pro-life, pro-faith, pro-family,” Barton said.
“There were 16 freshman senators and 13 of the 16 were pro-life, pro-faith and pro-family. You’re looking at about 75 percent in the Senate and 81 percent in the House,” Barton said.
“That 75 percent in the Senate didn’t get the majority, but it moved the Senate in the pro-life direction,” Barton said.
The impact of a heavy evangelical voter turnout was also reflected in the results in the statehouses.
“Minnesota for the first time in its history has a pro-life governor, senate and house. Mississippi this past election, for the first time, pro-life governor, senate and house,” Barton said.
“They voted their values, they got legislators who will fight for their values and they got more legislation passed in one election than they have at any previous election,” Barton said.
What happened during 2008? Barton believes Christians became worried about the economy and voted their pocketbooks.
“We had high evangelical voter turnout, the highest of any presidential election, but of that group, only three percent of the evangelicals thought that marriage was important and only six percent thought that life was an important issue,” Barton said. “Most of them voted their billfold and that’s the difference.”