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By Nancy Flory, an Associate Editor, The Stream, November 2, 2018
MyFaithVotes CEO Jason Yates recently spoke with The Stream’s Nancy Flory about the upcoming midterm elections and why it’s important for Christians to get involved. MyFaithVotes is an organization founded by Sealy Yates in 2015. It seeks “to inspire and motivate Jesus followers to vote.” Jason Yates discussed how voting makes a difference, about acting on one’s faith, about what is at stake in the 2018 elections and how MyFaithVotes can help.
When was MyFaithVotes founded and why?
It was founded in late 2015 by Sealy [Yates]. As an authors’ agent, he represents some of the leading Christian authors in the nation. One of those authors that he has had the delight to represent is Dr. Ben Carson. And it was through his work with Dr. Carson that he learned that in 2012, there were 25 million Christians registered to vote who did not vote.The difference in that election was 5 million votes. The average difference in the last five presidential elections has been less than 10 million votes.
So, the conclusion he came to, and rightfully so, is that Christians can have a dramatic impact if we simply show up and bring the values of our faith to the ballot box. Sealy said, “We’ve got to do something.” He’s in his early 70s and he has a number of grandchildren. He just felt that we’ve got to do something for the sake of our kids, our grandkids and the world we’re leaving them. Out of that, and through the inspiration of Dr. Ben Carson, was birthed MyFaithVotes.
Some people don’t think voting makes a difference. What would you say to people like that?
It absolutely does make a difference. There’s just so much media hype around Congressional elections. We just sense this tension and even division around what’s happening at the federal level. But there are 70,000 elections happening on November 6. 70,000. The majority of those are where it really does make a difference. It’s the school board, it’s the municipal, it’s the state legislature, it’s all of those elections where in reality it is decided by a few votes. By a few hundred, maybe a few thousand votes.
A single church can make a huge difference in a local election. It’s the decisions on those offices that really impact our lives, more than what’s happening at the federal level. It’s just that the media spins up the frenzy and we feel more of the tension at the federal level.
So at MyFaithVotes, we’re focused on every election — from Congressional down to local. We’re trying to do all that we can both to motivate and equip Christians to be faithful and to bring their faith to voting, even in the local elections.
I see voting is an opportunity for us to take action and do something that is going to bring good, the good of our faith, into our communities and into our nation.
The other piece that I want to address in answering that question is, as Christians, we are called to act on our faith. Our faith is action-oriented. There’s a great verse I love to talk about — it’s Galatians 6:10. It says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, especially those of the faith.” That verse isn’t speaking about voting per se, but as I look at it, I see voting is an opportunity for us to take action and do something that is going to bring good, the good of our faith, into our communities and into our nation.
I believe we have an opportunity: an opportunity to act on our faith and bring the good — the good of the God we serve, He’s the definition of good. So let’s bring His goodness into our community and be faithful with what we’ve been given.
Tell me what you’d say to someone who thinks that faith shouldn’t mix with politics?
As you probably already know, Governor Mike Huckabee is our honorary national chairman. Recently we had an opportunity to ask him this same question. I think a lot of us think politics is dirty, and we don’t want to get involved in that dirtiness. We think that’s not where we should be bringing our faith or being involved.
What Mike said in response to that — and I loved his answer — was, “You know, if your house is dirty, you don’t sit back and stay away from cleaning up your house, because that’s not going to get it any cleaner. In fact, it’s going to get dirtier if you don’t do something about it.” The way we make things better is we engage. We get involved. We can help clean it up.
We serve a powerful God. I believe our answers are only found in His Word and who He is. They’re the answers our nation, our communities, need. He is the only true answer to the problems we face. So, if we, as Christians, abstain and stay on the sidelines because we think it’s too dirty, or it’s not worthy of our faith, we’re really missing the point. We’re missing, as Galatians 6:10 says, the opportunity that we’ve been given.
What is at stake here in the elections if Christians don’t vote?
I’ve already mentioned that there are 70,000 elections, so there are all kinds of things at stake. At MyFaithVotes, we like to say we stand on a biblical worldview, so there are a few principles that we stand on in particular. One is the sanctity of life. That’s a critical issue for Christians — evangelicals and Catholics across the nation. There are some real opportunities, should Christians show up in droves for pro-life candidates. We could see a real change in policies across the nation. So, I think that is at stake in these elections.
There are also so many stories that we’re hearing around religious freedom. Jack Phillips’ case recently went before the Supreme Court. There are so many others like his, so we need senators who are going to confirm conservative justices, not only in the Supreme Court, but in lower courts as well. We need justices who are going to stand for religious freedom and for life that God’s created.
I want to make sure that the schools they’re in, at the least, aren’t teaching values opposed to mine.
There’s much at stake in school board races as well. My kids are young. I’ve got a fifth grader and a third grader in public schools. I want to make sure that the schools they’re in, at the least, aren’t teaching values opposed to mine.
There are 35 governors being elected in these mid-terms, too, and countless more mayors. These executives appoint non-elected people on committees across the nation. Those appointees in turn make real decisions on policies that affect us, our kids, local social services. These things affect us more than senate races or house races. This is what’s at stake we consider who will be representing us as executives
What kinds of tools do you have on the website to help voters?
We have a voting assistance center. To begin with, we have a ballot guide that represents 100 percent of the 70,000 elections happening across the nation. It’s very unique in that way.
People can get informed about their races. My ballot in Texas contains 51 elections. Through our website I can see the candidates for those 51 elections and research them with links to their websites, information around their stances, etc. Within that ballot guide I can also make a plan to vote. I can choose a day when I’m going to vote, schedule it on my calendar, get reminders and get driving directions. It’s great tool from a very practical place.
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And then, we link to a number of organizations and their voter guides. I believe strongly that no one fits 100 percent of Christians; certainly not 100 percent of the population. So I want to give people a variety of tools and let them do the research. At MyFaithVotes we like to say we want to see Christians do three things: pray, think and vote.
We should be praying about our choices, asking God to lead us in our decisions of our votes. We should be thinking about it from a biblical worldview. We should be doing the research to get informed about the issues and the candidates. Then we need to go vote. Our tools help people do all of those things and do them well.
Getting Out the Vote
We’re a “get out the vote” organization, so a lot of our activity is happening right now. Our focus is on the non-voter. We want them to understand why they should vote. Then we’ll equip them so that they are fully prepared to vote, from the local to the state level.
We have a church initiative, too, as well as acollege initiative. I’m super proud of our college initiative. We’re partnering with an organization, a millennial-led organization called iam2morrow, with Audrea Decker as president. The campaign is called “Because I Care.” We have 117 Christian universities and colleges partnering with us on this. representing about 325,000 students across the nation.
At the end of the day, it’s not just this election, it’s every election. It’s helping those who are first-time voters to have an identity of being a voter; that that’s what they do and who they are. That’s been a really great and successful campaign for us.
And we are doing everything we can around media, whether it’s digital media and social media, or it’s PSAs on Christian TV and on radio, just leveraging the voices of influential Christians in our nation to encourage and motivate Christians to get out and vote.
This interview has been edited for clarity.