Religious Groups Mount Passionate Election Turnout Efforts That Could Help Both Republicans and Democrats

Voters go to the polls during early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Nov. 4, 2018, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Waves of religious groups are mustering passionate get-out-the-vote efforts in the final hours before the heated midterm elections, with clergy pushing the faithful to the polls in ways that stand to aid both Republicans and Democrats.

Convincing religious voters to cast ballots on Election Day on Tuesday (Nov. 6) is hardly a new phenomenon in American politics. But this year’s atypically heated midterm contests appear to have sparked unusually robust efforts by faith-based organizations to galvanize supporters and move the political needle in favor of their respective values, if not their preferred candidates.

The conservative Christian group Faith and Freedom Coalition has spent the past few months revving up political operations that have existed for years, hoping to help Republicans capitalize on largely unwavering support for Donald Trump among white evangelical Protestants.

According to the New York Times, the group is pumping $18 million into this cycle, a sizable sum compared to the $10 million it spent in 2016 and the $5 million it used during the 2014 midterms.

Last week the coalition sent an email soliciting funds for a “Home Stretch Mid-Term Blitz,” which includes shipping voter guides to churches across the country. According to the email, the goal is to prevent conservatives from losing the Senate to “ultra-left even socialist Senators” such as Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom the coalition accused of wanting to “attack Christian Churches who dare exercise their First Amendment Free Speech rights.”

Leaders of Watchmen on the Wall, a project of the Family Research Council, are also reportedly pushing conservative Christian pastors to encourage their flocks to cast ballots on Tuesday. At a Watchmen pastors’ briefing in Unionville, N.C., on Oct. 4, according to the New York Times, Tony Perkins, president of the FRC, told the gathering, “The members of your congregation need to vote. As pastors, you need to — I’m not going to say ‘challenge them’ — you need to tell them to vote.”

The Rev. Franklin Graham — son of famous evangelist Billy Graham and head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — toured California earlier this year in what was widely seen as an effort to win back the state for conservatives. He recently declared Tuesday’s vote “the most important election of our lifetime.”

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SOURCE: Religion News Service, Jack Jenkins