American Atheists Launches #AtheistVoter Campaign, but Will It Be Effective? October 21, 2014

American Atheists Launches #AtheistVoter Campaign, but Will It Be Effective?

American Atheists just launched a new campaign urging atheists to get active and go vote.

The purpose of #AtheistVoter is simple: ensure that elected officials know that atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious constituents vote — and vote in huge numbers — so they can no longer simply ignore us or take our votes for granted.

The effects of religion in public policy issues can be seen in every level of government: from anti-LGBT discrimination to restricting the healthcare choices of women, from preferential treatment for religious group in the tax code to the excuse of “it’s tradition” for allowing Christian ideology to remain part of everyday government practices.

Policies rooted in religious bigotry and theology attack the fundamental rights of the nonreligious and our fellow citizens. History has shown us the only way to change the political dialogue is to show elected officials the value of our votes. #AtheistVoter is here to provide you with quick and easy access to information about your governor and the elected officials in your state that represent you in Congress.

The website features links for voter registration, voter guides, and a list of positions that generalize atheist tendencies (we tend to support reproductive rights, LGBT rights, freedom of and from religion, etc).

Because AA is a non-profit, the site doesn’t endorse specific candidates.

While I appreciate the sentiment — and plan to vote — there’s one argument that’s ignored on the site: What happens when all the candidates you have to choose from seem beholden to religious voters? Why give them the gift of a vote when they have no desire to stand up for church/state separation?

In 2008, then-AA President Ellen Johnson encouraged atheists to stay home on Election Day because “All of the candidates court the religious voters and ignore me.” She had a point.

The question is: What’s more effective? Making it known that you vote based on your Humanist values, even if it means supporting the lesser of two evils, hoping that leads to change in the future… or staying at home because there are no good candidates?

I lean toward the former. It’s rare that any election has a candidate I fully support, but if I can nudge the government a little more in my preferred direction, I think that’s the best we can hope for. If you’re staying at home, candidates will never cater to you, and it’s just unrealistic to convince enough people in your camp not to vote to make that persuasive. Politicians pay attention to polls and how people vote, not why they decided to treat Election Day like any other Tuesday.

The Religious Right would never do something as stupid as telling everyone to sit out on Election Day. They might threaten it, but they’ve had too much success electing candidates who kowtow to their positions to make “not voting” a strategy.

What atheists need is influence. The way we get that is to make it clear that certain issues matter to us and we’ll support candidates who take a position that aligns with ours. The more of us who make that clear, the better off we all are in the long run. Even if we’re not a monolith like the Christian Right.

And if you really want to protest the lack of good choices, vote for a third party candidate. Vote for someone who has no chance of winning. But vote.

These politicians have to pay attention eventually, right?

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