Count Every Vote: An Open Letter to the Chatham County Board of Elections

We are less than one week away from the end of a consequential and contentious election season in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of ballots have already been cast. A record 7.6 million voters are registered in the state of Georgia for this election. This makes it all the more important for there to be public trust in our election process.

Unfortunately, that has not always been the case in Georgia’s history. Our state has a troubling record of voter suppression, with a disproportionate negative impact on voters of color. While there have been improvements over time, the system is still not perfect. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is nowhere near as effective at defending those rights today as it was before The Supreme Court voided two key provisions in 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder. Many people are afraid that their vote will not be counted and that the election could be illegitimate.

We are clergy and faith leaders, not politicians. We do not speak up on behalf of any candidate or party, but we do speak up for what is right. We all believe in moral integrity and honesty. We believe in judging between people impartially (Leviticus 19:15); we believe in doing to others as we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12). We also know that it is tempting to take shortcuts when faced with public pressure to produce results quickly. 

Election officials have been empowered to oversee elections and secure the rights of all voters in Georgia. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented increase in absentee voting, mail-in voting, and early voting, this election will be unlike any other. It is likely that it will take several days or weeks after November 3 to count all the votes accurately and certify the results. It is conceivable that one or more candidates will try to put public pressure on election officials to certify the results before every ballot has been counted.

Therefore, we call on our Secretary of State, the Chatham County Board of Elections, and all elections officials in Georgia: 

  1.  To commit to counting every vote before certifying this election, including accepted provisional ballots and mail-in ballots; 
  2.  To honor the final election results and resist any effort to undermine the integrity of the election, including, but not limited to, partisan efforts to disqualify, exclude or otherwise prevent the counting of mail-in ballots, efforts to declare victory prematurely, and/or certify electoral votes in opposition to the popular vote; and
  3.  To communicate proactively and transparently with voters about the ballot counting process and when to expect results.

Help Georgia voters understand the election process and timeline this year. Help set the public’s expectation that results may not be final by November 4, as we are accustomed. And most of all, help ensure that every vote counts by counting every vote. 

The undersigned faith leaders in Chatham County, Georgia, stand together in our desire to see fair, transparent elections in our county, state, and country:

 

The Rev. Guillermo A. Arboleda

Rector, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Savannah, GA

Missioner for Racial Reconciliation & Healing, Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

 

The Rev. Katie Callaway

Co-Pastor, First Baptist Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. John Callaway

Co-Pastor, First Baptist Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Michael Chaney

Priest-in-Charge, The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Chester A. Ellis

Pastor, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Ben Gosden

Pastor, Trinity United Methodist Church, Savannah, GA

 

Rabbi Robert Haas

Rabbi, Congregation Mickve Israel, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Dr. Jai S. Haithco, Sr.

Senior Pastor, St. Philip A.M.E. Church, Savannah, GA

 

Rabbi Steven Henkin

Rabbi, Congregation Agudath Achim, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. R. Kevin Kelly

Rector, St. Michael & All Angels’ Episcopal Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Ian Lasch

Rector, St. Francis of the Islands Episcopal Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Canon Loren Lasch

Canon to the Ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

 

The Right Rev. Frank S. Logue

Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

 

The Rev. Samantha K. McKean

Assistant Rector, Christ Church Episcopal, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Kimberly McMichael

Senior Pastor, Greater Gaines Chapel A.M.E. Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Hunt Priest

Rector, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Ashley Randall

Pastor, Garden City United Methodist Church, Garden City, GA

 

The Rev. John G. Ruehl, IV

Outreach Coordinator, Union Mission / PCUSA

 

The Rev. J. Jacobs Sanders

Pastor, Holy Spirit Lutheran Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Kelly A. Steele

Associate Rector, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Thurmond N. Tillman

Pastor, First African Baptist Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Dr. Da’Henri R. Thurmond, Sr.

Senior Pastor, St. Paul C.M.E. Church, Savannah, GA

 

The Rev. Canon Joshua Varner

Canon for Children and Youth, Episcopal Diocese of Georgia

 

The Very Rev. Dr. William Willoughby III, OStJ

Episcopal Dean of Savannah; Rector, The Collegiate Church of St. Paul the Apostle; & Priest in Charge, St. Bartholomew’s, Burroughs, Savannah, GA

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