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Citizens of the Kingdom

Fr. Joseph K. Horn, O.Praem.
St. Thomas More, Irvine CA
15 October 2000

Picture it. The city of Coronado, California. Election day, not many years ago. Mary Herron is running for mayor. Almost everybody in town is behind her. She is the overwhelming favorite. Everybody assumes that she’ll win. So they don’t bother to go to the polls. She loses by nine votes. “People called me later,” she said, “and told me that they’d gone to the grocery store or played tennis instead of voting, and they felt terrible about it.” But this kind of story is not new; the problem is that we never learn.

Picture it: The city of El Toro, California. Not many years ago, a small but loud minority didn’t like the name “El Toro” and wanted to change the official name of the city to Lake Forest. They even managed to get the proposal on the ballot. But everybody knew that the town and its name “El Toro” had a long and venerable history. On the other hand, “Lake Forest” was a pretentious and artificial name; there is no forest there, and the only lake is a fake one. So it was no surprise that everybody assumed that the proposition would fail. So it was no surprise that most El Toroans stayed home on election day... and the proposition passed by a handful of votes! El Toro High School protested by putting up a huge sign that said, “Fake Lake High School”. But it was too late. El Toro is no more. Where it once stood with its proud history is now the yuppie commune of Fake Lake... I mean, Lake Forest.

A few years ago, there was some sort of bizarre proposition for the citizens in Silverado Canyon; it would have offered minimal benefit at a huge cost. Father Szanto, then principal of Saint Michael’s High School in the canyon, was sick that day and decided for the first time in his life not to vote, but at the last minute his conscience got to him and he went and voted NO. The proposition lost by ONE VOTE! Father Szanto still brags about it.

Richard Nixon lost the U.S. presidency to John Kennedy in 1960 by an equivalent of less than one vote in each precinct. Later, Nixon beat Humphrey by three votes per precinct. Bradley lost to Deukmejian in 1982 by fewer than four votes per precinct. But this is not merely a phenomenon of recent history.

In 1800 Thomas Jefferson ran against Aaron Burr, and the first vote was a tie in the Electoral College! When they voted again to break the tie, Jefferson won by ONE VOTE! Exactly the same thing happened in 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes won the White House by a single vote after the Electoral College deadlocked, and strange to tell, the Indiana congressman who broke the tie and put Hayes over the top had earlier won his own seat by a single vote too! When Congress voted to make California a state, the motion passed by ONE VOTE! Exactly the same thing happened with Texas, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon! In Lansing, Michigan, councilman Jack Gunther won by two votes, was challenged, and won the recount by ONE vote!

These are just a few examples, but there are thousands of them and I have to stop somewhere. Recent presidential elections have been so close that it would seem only an idiot would say, “One vote doesn’t count.” You’d think that everybody would finally learn the important and obvious lesson from all this, the lesson that EVERY VOTE COUNTS. Even one vote makes a difference. You’d think that as a species, humanity would have figured it out by now, and whenever there’s an election, everybody would go and vote. 100% turnout.

Instead, the voter turnout in 1960 was only 63%, and has steadily DECLINED since then. People pretend that they are good citizens... but they don’t vote. This is worse than tragic; it’s immoral. When the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the twelve Apostles on Pentecost, He gave them the power to do great things for the Church and he gave them the opportunity to use that power. It would have been unthinkable for them not to go forth and preach the good news of Jesus Christ; it would have been an abdication of their duty; it would have been wrong not to use that power.

Well, my good friends, that same God, the author of history, has given us a power that people in many countries only dream of: the power to cast a vote that makes a difference. And He has given us the opportunity to use this power. Voting is your moral obligation, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph #1913. If you don’t vote, you should afterwards go to Confession and be absolved of this sin. It’s strange that in all my years as a priest nobody has ever confessed that they didn’t vote.

And don’t tell me that you can’t vote because you have to take care of your children. You should go and vote BECAUSE of your children. You’re not just voting for yourself, but for the kind of future that you want them to have! You say you need to take care of your children? I agree. Isn’t voting an excellent way to take care of your children?

May the Holy Spirit who came upon you in Baptism continue to fill you with the joy of citizenship in the Kingdom of God and in this community. May the Holy Spirit who came upon you in Confirmation continue to shower you with His gifts so that you can vote wisely and prudently. And may the Holy Spirit who dwells in your heart grant you peace and remain with you forever and ever. Amen.

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