I Vow to Get Out the Vote

More than 100 Buddhist leaders have signed an open letter to their communities based in the United States supporting active participation in wide-scale voter registration for and participation in the fall election.

Even for those with the inclination and circumstances that support political engagement, the call to participate in the current election cycle might be met with some hesitation. As practitioners, we might ask if our tradition supports such worldly activity, but I suspect that the roots of our resistance are more pedestrian. Will I fit in, do I need to understand policy, will I have to talk to people from “the other side”, will I be physically safe, am I really needed, are any candidates truly worthy, is this the best use of my time, will participating only increase my fear and anger, isn’t the system hopelessly corrupt, will anything I do even matter?

Mindful of the tension between this call to extend ourselves and the ensuing protestations that arise, we can welcome it all. We can assuage the reactive concerns and listen to the deeper wisdom that knows it’s all hopelessly imperfect and of course our actions matter so much. As virtue declines, each virtuous act is all the more valuable. So whatever the outcome, acting in alignment with our values confirms our own agency and freedom. No matter what you chose to do or not do, you can trust all effort that arises from your deepest wisdom.

-Kristin Barker, co-founder and director of One Earth Sangha, signatory on the open letter below.


Watch the WinWisconsin Webinar from June 11, hosted by Tara Brach, Van Jones, and Jack Kornfield.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

This is a truly critical time in American society. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, financial collapse, climate change emergency, and approaching a November election that threatens to exclude many eligible voters. As Buddhist teachers and leaders, we recognize that every vote and voice needs to be heard to help guide the next years of our society wisely.

A mutual caring community is one of the central teachings of the Buddha. In these times so marked by divisiveness and a lack of compassionate leadership, many of you have wondered how you and your whole community can help move us in this direction. Here are two crucial activities to encourage for everyone in your community:

  • Register to vote; and sign up for an absentee ballot: You and your community can do this through Vote.org. Over thirty states now have no-excuse absentee voting, and many others are considering allowing COVID-19 as a valid excuse.
  • Get your friends and family to register, sign up for an absentee ballot, and vote.

There’s more we all can do, and these actions don’t demand a lot of time.

1. Volunteer to do voter registration, absentee sign-ups, and get out the vote through these organizations.

  • State Voices: A network of nonpartisan state coalitions of hundreds of grassroots organizations. Reach out and see if there are volunteer opportunities.
  • National Voter Registration Day (Sept 22): Provides training and support on how to conduct voter registration, and will be making a heavy pivot to remote options this year, as well as a push to sign up for Vote-By-Mail (absentee). Includes legal guidance for voter registration drives.
  • Vote Early Day (Oct 24): Inspired by National Voter Registration Day and anchored by a number of large media and tech companies, this organization will also be providing toolkits and training opportunities for impactful work, including recruitment of election workers. Will be assisting voters with both mail and in-person early-voting options. Was in the works pre-COVID-19, but is likely more critical in a pandemic.
  • When We All Vote: The best-resourced, truly nonpartisan voter engagement organization.

2. Help ensure that eligible voters get to vote in key states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin. Whether non-partisan or partisan there are many ways to help. There are many ways to do this.

3. Sign up to be a poll worker. Serving as a poll worker offers a dramatically under-appreciated opportunity to have an impact. Problems are made markedly worse or are mitigated to a substantial degree based on the quality of the poll worker. Chronic shortages of election workers nationwide cause long lines at the polls, especially at polling places that serve communities of color.

You can sign up to be a poll worker using this form and be connected to your local elections office.

Our collective involvement leading up to the November elections can really make a difference. Please forward this to as many teachers and Buddhist communities as you can throughout the United States. And thanks for joining us!

With lovingkindness, compassion and blessings,

Yours in the Dharma,
100+ Buddhist Teachers

Jack Kornfield
Tara Brach
James Baraz
Sylvia Boorstein
Trudy Goodman
Konda Mason
Zoketsu Norman Fischer
Lama Palden
Oren Jay Sofer
Neesha Patel
Tara Mulay
Joseph Goldstein
Sharda Rogell
Matthew Brensilver
Karen Maezen Miller
Debra Chamberlin Taylor
Lynn Weinberger
Jaya Rudgard
Jonathan Weinberger
Erin Treat
Rev. Sumi Loundon Kim
Rev. Grace Schireson
Layla Smith Bockhorst
Eiko Joshin Carolyn Atkinson
Dharmacarani Vimalasara
Bhiksuni Thubten Chödrön
Melissa Myozen Blacker, Roshi
Rev. Edward Oberholtzer
Lama Christopher Coriat
Bonnie Rose Christine
Lama Justin von Bujdoss
George Kinder
Valerie Brown
Joann Rosen
Sensei Katherine Griffith
Sharon Salzberg
Wes Nisker
Kamala Masters
Dawn Maurici
Andrea Castillo
Phillip Moffitt
Anna Douglas
Tere Abdala
Lama Surya Das
Andrea Fella
Rev. angel Kyodo williams
Jeff Haozous
Jozen Tamori Gibson
Ruth King
Mary Grace Orr
Walt Opie
Gil Fronsdal
Lama Willa Miller
Carol Wilson
Howard Cohn
Susie Harrington
Lama Pat Berube
Madeline Klyne
Furyu Schroeder
Donald Rothberg
Anne Cushman
Devon Hase
Judy Lief
Rev. James Ishmael Ford
Bob Thurman
Chris Cullen
Eihei Peter Levitt
Christina Feldman
Nena Thurman
Akincano Webber
David Loy
Yuka Nakamura
Sebene Selassie
Matthew Regan (Rev. Bup Hee)
Rebecca Li
Karma Lekshe Tsomo
Thanissara
Rev. Wendy Egyoku Nakao
Mitchell Ratner
Rev. Ronald Kobata
Kate Johnson
Narayan Helen Liebenson
Nakawe Cuebas
Kittisaro Weinberg
Carole Aldstadt
Pamela Ayo Yetunde
Jonathan Foust
James Myosan Cordova, Sensei
Lucinda Green
Jules Shuzen Harris Sensei
Dean Koyama
Lama Daniela Coriat
Ava Avalos
Kaira Jewel Lingo
Richard Brady
Thich Pháp Hai
Louije Kim
Grace Song
JD Doyle
La Sarmiento
Trish Magyari
Jeffrey Rosenberg
Kristin Barker
Yong Ik Oh
Kenley Neufeld

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