With just 11 days until the North Carolina voter registration deadline, political groups are scrambling to get as many people registered as possible.
In many cases, that means reaching out to area and state religious groups.
One statewide group, the conservative N.C. Values Coalition has started a Pledge to Vote campaign, encouraging churches to hold voter registration drives. The group is also encouraging church groups to support candidates who also support their core causes – traditional marriage, religious freedom and the sanctity of life.
During the primary election cycle, the N.C. Values Coalition was a leading voice pushing for Amendment One, the state’s constitutional marriage amendment.
Now the group is focusing on pushing its base of evangelicals and conservative Catholics to the polls. The online pledge states: “On. August 6th, I ate at Chick-fil-A. On Nov. 6, I will vote.” The reference to the fast food chain is linked to a nationwide push to defend traditional marriage remarks made by Chick-fil-A’s CEO.
Tami Fitzgerald’s, N.C. Values Coalition executive director, says her passion for traditional marriage comes from her reading of the Bible.
“I am a Christian and I do believe in the Bible and exactly what the Bible says and my beliefs about marriage unabashedly come from the Bible. In Genesis 1, it says for this reason man shall cling to his wife and they will become one,” she said in a recent phone interview. “The reason I am passionate about marriage is I believe it is the basic building block for our society.”
But Fitzgerald’s group isn’t the only one with a pews-to-the-polls initiative.
Nationwide, on Oct. 7, a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom is organizing a Pulpit Freedom Sunday and challenging pastors across the country to openly endorse political candidates during their services. Last year, 11 North Carolina churches and 18 South Carolina churches participated. The organization has said it hopes to double the national number of participating churches to about 1,000 this year.
In New Hanover County, the Republican Party has volunteers out visiting churches in Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover counties to deliver voter registration packets.
But they’re getting push-back from the churches in some cases, said Sandy Michelin, a volunteer coordinator of church outreach for the Republican Party.
“We feel some of the churches may have concerns about the acceptance of the registration forms, worried about losing their tax exempt status,” she said. “Some are concerned about alienating some within their congregation, but that’s a misconception because there’s nothing partisan attached to the packets.”
The county’s Democratic Party is organizing a large group of churches for a one stop voting event called Souls to the Polls on Oct. 20 at The Love Center Church on the corner of 16th and Queen streets.
Bishop James B. Utley, the church’s pastor, said a coalition of 25-30 churches will come together for the event that is tied to the start of early voting on Oct. 18.
Fitzgerald said her organization’s statewide Pledge to Vote campaign will continue up to election day.
“The Pledge to Vote campaign is an effort to mobilize all of the evangelical Christians and Catholics and equipping them with information and making sure they do actually go to the polls and vote on Nov. 6,” she added. “Of course, there are people of all different faiths who support marriage, life and religious liberty. We will be reaching out to all groups who care about these issues. But our focus will be on the evangelical and Catholic communities because they were so involved and active in the marriage campaign.”