We are often asked — by both laity and priests — why the Minnesota Catholic Conference does not produce voter guides or candidate scoresheets that identify candidates and votes they took on specific bills or lay out their positions on issues. Understandably so, the frequency of this query tends to grow in the weeks leading up to a big election.
MCC does not produce voter guides for some important practical reasons. For one, legislators rarely take clear-cut votes on specific or solitary issues; legislation is often rolled into omnibus bills that include many pieces of legislation and is usually adopted along party-line votes by a whole legislative caucus. Secondly, candidates generally do not respond to questionnaires from outside groups about their positions, particularly ones that do not provide endorsements or campaign contributions. Furthermore, if we were to try to cobble together their positions via public sources, they are often intentionally ambiguous about positions on controversial issues, and even the construction of such voter guides would entail editorial choices that could lead to accusations of bias.
Ultimately, we believe relying on voter guides and scoresheets undercuts the process by which citizens must educate themselves about the issues, and form relationships with candidates so that they can influence their work throughout their time in office. We cannot be content to vote once every couple of years and then wash our hands of the results. Our system requires active participation by its citizens, or important decisions will be left to those who show up. It is why the Church calls the laity to be “faithful citizens.”
The work of faithful citizenship must begin with forming one’s conscience in the Church’s social teaching — the toolbox of principles used to shape social and political life. It is not a set of prescriptions or ready-made answers. Instead, it is a mental model for well-formed Catholics to guide their actions.
This year, Minnesota’s bishops have offered a statement about how to prioritize the principles of Catholic social teaching in light of the signs of the times, particularly during an election-year debate in which abortion dominates the headlines. Take time to familiarize yourself with the statement, which sheds light on the need for right relationships to create true justice and the preeminence of prenatal justice in our voting considerations.
You may receive the statement in your bulletin at Mass, or you can find it on our election resources page at mncatholic.org/electionresources.
Once we form our conscience, then we inform ourselves of the candidates’ positions and apply our formation to their positions. Making an informed vote requires that we get to know our candidates. Although MCC does not distribute a candidate scorecard, we do provide you with, among other resources, a questionnaire that you can download to ask questions of your candidates.
Most candidates’ websites provide direct contact information for the candidate. Candidates are surprisingly accessible. We recently published a series of video interviews we conducted with candidates for the Minnesota Legislature so that Catholics have examples of the types of conversations they can have with candidates.
Reaching out directly to candidates will allow you to learn where they stand on issues of life, dignity, and the common good. That is the recipe for informed voting, but also the building blocks for relationships that can help transform our state for the better.