In the last few years, we on Catholic Charities’ Commission on Peace and Justice — volunteers from parishes around the Diocese of Albany — have been increasingly concerned about the polarization of American politics. We’ve been distressed to witness this polarization, and an evident social divide, at times, within our own parishes and in local congregations of other faiths. We have worked to address the problem by modeling civil discourse and emphasizing areas of agreement despite political differences. But the division remains, and in our opinion, it is undermining the fabric of our democracy.

In recent months, the attention of Americans — and people around the world — has been riveted on the congressional investigation into the violent insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and on questions about the validity of the 2020 presidential election that triggered that event. When claims of fraudulent balloting in several states were not substantiated, a number of states acted to shift oversight of voting procedures from independent election officials and commissions to state legislatures, whose decisions might favor the majority party.

But even more disturbing to us is the fact that some 20 state legislatures have passed or are considering laws that serve to make it harder for particular subsets of the electorate to vote — including young people and, disproportionately, people of color. (An example of such laws: In 2011, the State of Alabama ruled that prospective voters had to show a photo ID, either a government employee card or a driver’s license; within a few years the state closed the DMV offices in eight of the 10 counties with the highest Black populations.)

As members of the Commission on Peace and Justice, we feel morally compelled to support the right of all Americans under the U.S. Constitution to vote, and to oppose the imposition of measures such as reduced hours and access to polling locations that impede particular segments of the electorate from exercising that right.

We concur with the Founding Fathers that “all persons are created equal,” and we are grateful for the democratic ideals and principles that distinguish the U.S. from other societies that are controlled by authoritarian regimes. As Christians, we uphold the democratic ideal of every person’s inherent dignity and value, and we urge all who share our faith to join together in upholding that ideal. As American citizens, we call on all legislators to affirm the ideal of equality, especially as it pertains to the right to vote, and to continue efforts to advance a “more perfect union.”

Deacon Walter Ayres Matthew Levine
Michael Burgess Constance Mondel
Bernadette Cole-Slaughter Marie Slattery
Sandra Dietlein Father Paul Smith
Karen Frishkoff David Stagliano
Ellen Hotz Deacon Charles Valenti