Protecting Your Vote: Registration

See the source imageAt the county building on election day a few dozen people came to our station and experienced an unpleasant surprise. They learned they were not on our rolls as registered to vote. “But I did this at the DMV in September,” one person protested.

The Department of Motor Vehicles is a state office. Elections are run by counties. Some government manifestations, like the DMV, might suggest they can take care of voter registration for you when you move to a new state. My family and I did that. I also followed through with the county auditor, and I was set for the first election that Fall.

However, when a person new to a community wants to register to vote, I don’t recommend they go anywhere else but to the county auditor’s office. Giving UPS a change-of-address is not enough. The post office is federal. If you moved, it’s likely you didn’t inform the last county you lived in. And even if you did, auditors don’t transfer voting registrations across county or state lines.

To protect your right to vote, I suggest acquainting yourself with the county office building and going to register in person. Voter registration drives are okay too.

Where I worked, about three dozen provisional ballots were put in a different envelope on Election Day last week. A committee will look into why a bunch of voter registrations seemed to get lost between one government manifestation and another. Maybe those votes will count if somebody at the DMV says, “Ooo, we forgot we had those. Sorry.” I can’t tell you; I never served on such a committee.

All I can tell you is get yourself to a county outlet and register to vote.

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Protecting Your Vote 1: Your Signature

See the source imageSo, this voter and I were having a conversation this past Tuesday. The signature from his voter registration form doesn’t match what’s on his license. Hence a little chat.

Now, as an election official, I’ve experienced some hours of training for the study and verification of signatures. In states like mine with mail voting, this is one way we can verify we have an authentic ballot in our hands: examining how the person signs her or his name. A signature doesn’t have to be neat, but it does need to be consistent.

Signatures do evolve over time. For many people, a ten-year gap can be significant. But honest and skilled election officials can make reasonable determinations.

Back to my conversation partner on Tuesday: he confesses to me he varies his signature frequently. He also admitted he has been contacted in the past when he’s mailed in his ballot.

As an artist, I can appreciate the indulgence for personal expression. As a blogger, for contrariness.

And yet …

When conducting your business as a voter, this is the time for a reasonable adherence to form. I told my conversation partner that he can continue to “vary” how he signs his name. His credit card company or the pad at his grocery store or doctor’s office–these won’t care. But lacking a photo id when his mail or absentee ballot arrives at the election office, it will get flagged as worrisome. Some officials in some states might be instructed to reject the ballot. Others will devote some seconds or a few minutes to figuring it out. And they may come to the same conclusion as those “some officials” elsewhere. In instance one, voter suppression. In two, a bit of wasted time for people who are trying to get every vote counted.

Where your signature is concerned, here is my suggestion for protecting your vote in the future:

Have a signature that reasonably presents your name with some clarity. Be as creative as you desire, but use it when you vote, if no other time. If you have had problems with your ballot in the past, pay particular attention, especially of you’ve been contacted by the county about an irregularity. It is worth the extra five seconds it takes to sign a reasonably legible name instead of a squiggly line.

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OCM 4: The Supernatural Element of Christian Marriage

The former Rite of Marriage (1969), significantly revised and updated in 1991, eventually found its way into English translation in 2016. We’ll continue a look at the introduction to the Order of Celebrating Matrimony. Today, paragraph number four begins with a reminder of Jesus’ endorsement of Eve and Adam’s covenant in Genesis:

4. The intimate community of life and love, by which spouses ‘are no longer two, but one flesh,’(Matthew 19:6) has been established by God the Creator, provided with its own proper laws, and endowed with that blessing which alone was not forfeited by punishment for original sin.(Cf. Nuptial Blessing) This sacred bond, therefore, does not depend on human choice, but rather on the Author of Marriage, who ordained it to be endowed with its own goods and ends.(Gaudium et Spes 48)

This divine establishment is part of the creation of humankind: how we were made as beings. Not just our biology, but also our impulses for community and communion. Put all together these elements cannot really be separated into component parts. Given God’s participation in the sacrament, any marriage is far more than the sum of the parts two human beings bring to the relationship. If, however, their cooperation and “yes” to
God permits it.


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OCM 3: Gift(s) of Marriage

The former Rite of Marriage (1969) was significantly revised and updated in 1991. The English translation came later, in 2016. We continue a careful look at the introduction to the Order of Celebrating Matrimony.

This introduction gives pastoral ministers–not just clergy, but musicians, liturgists, catechists, mentors, counsellors–plenty of valuable background to assist in the preparation of couples. It’s not just the how-to of conducting a wedding ceremony.

It’s long been my contention that the theology of some sacraments is underdeveloped or poorly promulgated. Confirmation might be one of the latter. Marriage is likely one of the former. I think paragraph 3 offers a traditional, but slightly skewed emphasis on children. Let’s read:

3. Furthermore, the institution of Marriage itself and conjugal love are, by their very nature, ordered to the procreation and formation of children and find in them, as it were, their ultimate crown.(Gaudium et Spes 48) Children are thus truly the supreme gift of Marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.

Certainly, marriage and love do indeed often lead to children. But not in every marriage or in every instance of intercourse. The commonality in all marriages is the formation of a community. Biological children are not always possible, but the supernatural union in Christ is always present. A natural marriage may indeed be ordered both to companionship and children, but the elevation of marriage to a sacrament means that a third aspect is present for Christians. Marriage is also a means of sanctification, as every sacrament is.

To be sure, sometimes couples are separated by evils (war, poverty, personal violence, etc.) or by circumstances (illness, work, commitments to other parts of a family or in society at large). Sometimes couples are not able to bear biological children. And certainly, many couples fail to explore the possibilities for sanctification that are available to them. The suggestion that children are an “ultimate crown” or a “supreme gift” tells only one-third of the story. Our bishops, clergy, and married couples would do far better to lift up all of the graces available in this sacrament.


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To Guard And Guide

My favorite guardian angel is Raphael. One of my favorite biblical books describes his mission, assisting young Tobiah retrieve a treasure from his father’s close friend Gabael:

So, son, find yourself a trustworthy person who will make the journey with you, and we will give him wages when you return; but bring back that money from Gabael while I am still alive.” Tobiah went out to look for someone who would travel with him to Media, someone who knew the way. He went out and found the angel Raphael standing before him (though he did not know that this was an angel of God). (Tobit 5:3b-4)

Thirteen verses later, father Tobit gives his blessing:

Son, prepare whatever you need for the journey, and set out with your kinsman. May God in heaven protect you on the way and bring you back to me safe and sound; may his angel accompany you for your safety, son.

The company is an angel in the flesh, of course, which the father does not know. The Psalmist was also well aware:

Bless the Lord, all you his angels,
mighty in strength, acting at his behest,
obedient to his command. (103:20)

Pope Francis’ reflection today is thoughtful.

Our angel is not only with us; he also sees God the Father. He is in relationship with Him. He is the daily bridge, from the moment we arise to the moment we go to bed. He accompanies us and is a link between us and God the Father. The angel is the daily gateway to transcendence, to the encounter with the Father: that is, the angel helps me to go forward because he looks upon the Father, and he knows the way. Let us not forget these companions along the journey.


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OCM 2: Fidelity and Unity

The former Rite of Marriage (1969) was significantly revised and updated in 1991. The English translation was rolled out a few years ago, 2016. We’ll continue a look at the introduction to the Order of Celebrating Matrimony. Today, paragraph number two sets a high ideal nearly any married person would readily embrace: spouses give and accept a permanent gift:

2. A Marriage is established by the conjugal covenant, that is, the irrevocable consent of both spouses, by which they freely give themselves to each other and accept each other. Moreover, this singular union of a man and a woman requires, and the good of the children demands, the complete fidelity of the spouses and the indissoluble unity of the bond (Gaudium et Spes 48).

To be effective, complete fidelity demands near constant attention. One point of institutional disconnect involves the comparative treatment of marriage and priesthood. Most dioceses I’ve known have some sort of communal renewal at the annual Chrism Mass, and in addition, clergy rightly celebrate ordination anniversaries. In contrast, special treatment of wedding anniversaries is reserved for big numbers like twenty-five or fifty. True, love and affection are widely celebrated and observed in secular society. It seems clear to me the institutional church gives few enough resources to bolster the “fidelity” and “unity” of spouses.


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OCM 1: Covenant

The former Rite of Marriage (1969) has been significantly revised and updated into the Order of Celebrating Matrimony (1991/2016). Some new elements were introduced with the latest edition and translation of the Roman Missal (2010), and others with the assembly of the Latin edition of the ritual late in the last century.

1991, you ask? Yes indeed: it took over twenty years for the English translation to be achieved and implemented.

The introduction to the Order of Celebrating Matrimony includes forty-four paragraphs, up from 18 in the 1971 ritual. We’ll look at these carefully. Why? Most clergy and liturgists ignore these preliminaries and jump right into how to do the rite. And that’s important. But the introduction–the praenotanda in the professional lingo–gives important insight as to why we do the liturgical things we do.

First up, marriage is more than a legal or even a sacramental reality. The Church defines it as a covenant:

1. The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish a lifelong partnership between themselves (canon law 1055.1) derives its force and strength from creation, but for the Christian faithful it is also raised up to a higher dignity, since it is numbered among the Sacraments of the new covenant.

Simply, it goes deeper than a promise, a legal agreement, or an emotional bond. A covenant doesn’t negate these other understandings. My sense is that it elevates them.

God made human beings and placed within us the desire for companionship. We achieve a deeper sense of our humanity by making and keeping a commitment with a life partner. That reality doesn’t negate the situation of people who decline to marry. But it does open a married couple to a profound dimension of what it means to be human. Celibates and other single people have other avenues open to them. They do not “lose” that insight or experience of humanity. Indeed, through friendship or family they might be drawn into the orbit of marriage and have their own experiences of grace, love, union, and so forth.

The Church acknowledges that Matrimony has been “raised” into a new plane and understanding as one of the seven Sacraments. What does that mean? Catholics understand sacraments as signs instituted to give grace. Married life then implies that the opportunity to encounter Jesus and to receive and know divine grace is part of the experience of married life.


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