Last week, Congregations Matter became aware of irregularities in the voter registrations of five congregations which, if uncorrected, would nullify their votes for Synod President. The voter registration confirmation letters from Secretary Sias’ office included the following errors in the presidential election registrations of seven congregations:
- A pastor and his lay delegate’s emails were registered with one letter missing from both of their email addresses. This means when Synod tries to send them something regarding the vote or they try to log on as voters, they will not be able to do so. If the congregation’s secretary hadn’t caught the error, the pastor and layperson may not have been able to cast their votes.
- A pastor reported his confirmation letter had significant errors regarding his layman’s information. If uncorrected, his layman would not have been able to be contacted to vote.
- A congregation’s submitted lay elector was totally omitted from the confirmation letter, even though it was submitted on the registration form.
- TWO pastors reported their names were listed correctly, but both of their lay persons were omitted from the confirmation letter. Both pastors called Secretary Sias’ office and discovered each of their lay electors were listed as the lay representative from another congregation. (One has to ask, where were the laypersons from the other congregation listed — or were the layperson listed anywhere?)
That’s five problems affecting the registration and voting rights of seven congregations.
Everyone knows a centralized process of registering 12,000 or so voters is hard and people make mistakes — pastors, laypeople, and the Secretary of Synod’s office alike.
One error is understandable. Things happen. Two or three, perhaps surprising. However, this pattern of five voter registration errors affecting seven congregations from the Michigan, Southeastern and Pacific Southwest Districts is a reminder to EVERY CONGREGATION that, while these voter registration errors might be simple clerical mistakes, their effect if uncorrected is voter suppression.
So, let’s help our Synod Secretary do this important task well!
Every Congregation Must Protect Their Right to Vote
Please do not assume that mistakes cannot happen! Follow through to make sure your pastor and your lay person are registered properly.
Follow these simple steps:
1. DO IT NOW — The deadline for voter registration is March 24, 2019.
2. BE AWARE — The Voting Registration process has changed.
Secretary Sias is fully responsible for accurate voter registration (See Bylaw 18.104.22.168).
The Milwaukee Convention voted to change the registration process for electors of the Synod President. Resolution 11-03A moved the responsibility for a correct voting list from a joint effort of District and Synod Secretaries to the Synod Secretary alone.
In fact, no one but the Synod Secretary may even see the list.
The change? Prior to 2016, the Synod Secretary compiled a list of pastors and laypeople who attended their respective district conventions from the districts. They were automatically registered as voters in the next election for Synod President. Any registration errors came from the districts and all the district Secretaries worked to correct mistakes.
Now voter registration is entirely and solely the responsibility of the Synod Secretary’s office. And with this centralization comes problems…and controversy when errors like this happen.
3. CHECK YOUR CONGREGATION’S VOTER REGISTRATION CONFIRMATION LETTER in detail to insure all the information is correct.
Make sure that correct email addresses and that BOTH your pastor and lay leader are listed on the form — and make sure the layperson listed belongs to your congregation. Because of the errors already discovered, review your confirmation letter in detail. Your pastor or congregational secretary should have received the letter mailed from St. Louis on February 7.
4. IF YOU CANNOT FIND YOUR CONFIRMATION LETTER OR YOU DISCOVER ERRORS:
Call or email the Office of the Secretary TODAY and verify your pastor and a designated layperson are registered to vote in the Presidential election:
Rev. Dr. John Sias, Synod Secretary
314-996-1415 – direct
John.firstname.lastname@example.org – email
THE DEADLINE APPROACHES
For the 2019 election, presidential election voter registrations will be accepted through March 24, 2019. Thus, congregations must clear up any irregularities they discover by March 24 or they may not be allowed to vote for new Presidential leadership in our Synod.
Protecting every congregation’s right to vote for President … matters!