Register to vote at your parish

August 23, 2012 at 8:47 AM

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Bishop of Allentown John Barres has announced that in response to the call to faithful citizenship, the Bishops of Pennsylvania have authorized a parish-based, nonpartisan voter registration drive at parishes in September.

“It is a tremendous help in activating Catholic voters and encouraging them to participate as active citizens,” Bishop Barres said of the program.

To bring this effort to fruition, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) is partnering with the Knights of Columbus, who will conduct the drive at parishes with the pastor’s approval.

Pastors may select the best weekend, or multiple weekends, in September for their parish drive. When the drive is complete, all voter registration applications will be mailed by the individual or collected at the parish for mailing or delivery to the appropriate authority.

The Knights of Columbus will conduct volunteer training this summer throughout the state. Training for at least one volunteer at each site is recommended. Other volunteers can include high school students, as well as interested adults from various networks.

“The Office of Government Affairs appreciates the efforts of the Knights of Columbus to register voters so that in November they will be able to exercise what the bishops of the United States call “’Faithful Citizenship,’” said Matt Kerr, secretary of the diocesan Secretariat for External Affairs and director of the diocesan Office of Government Affairs.

“This is a massive effort throughout Pennsylvania,” said Michael O’Connor, supreme director of the Supreme Council and assistant supreme advocate of the Knights of Columbus. O’Connor noted the knights are involved in the effort throughout the United States.

“We’re doing our patriotic duty with the non-partisan voter registration. We asked all the councils to participate, and all the councils in the Diocese of Allentown agreed to do it,” O’Connor said.

He explained the PCC has appointed a diocesan coordinator for each diocese. In the Diocese of Allentown, it’s Patrick Hockenberry, director of parish stewardship and the Bishop’s Annual Appeal in the diocesan Secretariat for Stewardship and Development.

The knights are conducting training to ensure the drive is non-partisan. Volunteers must sign a promise stating they will not involve partisan politics in the endeavor, “so it’s truly patriotic.”

The Knights of Columbus Nonpartisan Voter Registration Guidelines include, for example, that volunteers pledge to not endorse or oppose a candidate or party in a campaign for public office or ballot measures while conducting the registration program.

“Our principles are charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism – that’s why we’re doing this,” O’Connor said of the knights. “All the good works we do are informed by our four core principles.”

Key dates for the 2012 elections

  • Tuesday, Oct. 9 – general election registration deadline.
  •  Tuesday, Oct. 30 – last day to apply for civilian absentee ballot.
  •  Friday, Nov. 2 – last day for county board of elections to receive voted civilian absentee ballots.
  •  Tuesday, Nov. 6 – general election.

“Everyone has the right to vote. We want to make sure everyone is registered. This year extra steps must be taken because of the new voter ID law,” O’Connor said.

The new law, which goes into effect for the Nov. 6 election, says a voter must show an eligible photo ID card – such as a state-issued driver’s license or passport – for his or her vote to be counted. The current law states only people voting in a ward for the first time must show identification, including nonphoto forms such as a utility bill or bank statement.

O’Connor said the knights are distributing posters such as “Register Today! Your Vote Counts” to get the message out. He noted the fourth degree knights are the “patriotic arm” of the organization.

Joelle Shea, director of outreach with the PCC, said, “The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is working with the Knights of Columbus on this nonpartisan, non-issue related voter registration drive. The PCC helped to prepare the materials and create the training, while the knights are responsible for implanting the drive at the parish level with the pastor’s permission.”



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