Avoid the Election Day Traps!
-- Fr. Frank Pavone, Director, Priests for Life
When election day comes upon us, so do the traps that come with it. Be sure
you avoid these pitfalls, and help others avoid them, too!
1. I'm a nobody -- I only have one vote, and my vote doesn't count!
This trap overlooks the lessons of history that show how elections can be
decided by a single vote or by a handful of votes. Can we forget the ordeal of
the 2000 Presidential election? Less well known, perhaps, are these facts:
Way back in 1845 in the U.S. Congress, Texas became a state by one vote. In
1923, one vote in the German Parliament gave Hitler leadership of the Nazi
A shift of less than one vote per precinct in a handful of states would have
defeated Woodrow Wilson in his bid for re-election in 1916. A few votes per
precinct in Illinois and a couple of other states and then Vice President
Richard Nixon would have defeated John F. Kennedy in 1960. The same is true in
elections at every level. In 1974, Congressman Louis Wyman was declared the
victor in the U.S. senate race in New Hampshire, after a recount, by just two
votes. If only a few additional people in each precinct in Ohio had voted
differently in the 1976 presidential election, Mr. Ford would have been our
president, not Mr. Carter. Around the same time, the Governor of Ohio beat out
challenging candidate by a margin of one vote per precinct.
Yes, your one vote counts, and you can also influence many other votes!
2. They're all bums! -- No candidate is worthwhile!
This is the trap of looking for the non-existent perfect candidate. But your
vote is not to canonize the candidate; it is to give him or her temporary power
to do some limited good. If both choices look evil, try to see how one may be
better than the other. This is not "choosing the lesser evil." Rather, it is
choosing to limit evil, and that choice is a good.
3. I can't be a single-issue voter!
First of all, most people are. It is a "single issue" that usually motivates
a person to rally around the candidate who supports that issue.
But if you don't want to be a "single-issue" voter, at least you can be an
intelligent one, and realize how the many issues are related. At the foundation
of them all is the right to life, without which no others are possible. If a
politician can't respect the life of a little baby, how is she supposed to
4. The election doesn't matter. -- We can't put our trust in worldly power.
Those we elect whom we think are on our side disappoint us anyway.
We don't put our trust in earthly power and government, but in the Lord.
Political involvement is not our salvation, but it is our duty. It is God
Himself who gives us the opportunity and wisdom to shape our society according
to His laws. Surely, any human leader can disappoint us, and many do. But we are
not responsible for predicting or controlling the future, nor are we capable to
do so. We are responsible for analyzing the positions of the candidates and
choosing those whose positions correspond to the moral law and the common good.
5. I'll show them! -- using the election to take out our anger or resolve a
Sometimes individuals or groups vote reactively. A candidate, or a party, did
them wrong, and so they want to teach them a lesson by voting vindictively. This
may help to vent a personal frustration, but who suffers in the process? It
would be far better to go to the gym and take out your anger on a punching bag,
or go into a field and yell. But those you elect to public office will influence
a lot of people -- and unborn babies -- for a long time. Look beyond your
personal problems or agendas.
6. The media says…-- I am swayed by what the news says about who is winning.
Look, what you do determines what the polls say, not vice-versa. Decide whom
to vote for based on who is the better candidate, and then cast that vote
without paying any attention to what the news reports are saying. If you think
you will be swayed by a news report, don’t listen to the news until after you
7. I'll go later…
Go to vote first thing in the morning. If you delay going to vote until later
in the day, you increase the chances that you will be distracted or hindered by
some problem that arises unexpectedly. You may also become more busy than you
anticipated, and might forget. The rule is: the earlier, the better.
8. Until next time…
At end of election day, don’t say, "Ah…Now I don’t have to worry about
elections for a while." No, you have to start working on the next election now.
This is the best time to start. The mistakes you made in this election cycle are
fresh in your mind, and now is the time to make a list of all the things you
could have done if you had thought of them sooner. Plan to do them for the next
So it's not "until next time…" Next time is here.
9. Overconfidence or dejection --
If the election goes the way you want, do not become overconfident or lazy.
Work harder than ever to encourage and assist those whom you helped elect.
If it does not go the way you want, set your energies on doing damage
control, and on challenging those who were elected to govern in a way that
follows the moral law.
In all cases, keep your focus on God and on the future. There is work to do,
there is no time to waste, and the truth always prevails.