Do Bahá'ís have to vote in the general election?

Dec 2009
165
United States
#1
I understand that Bahá'ís are not permitted to be affiliated with any political party. Thus we can't vote in primary elections. But concerning the general election for United States president, are Bahá'ís obligated to vote? I thought I read a while ago a passage by `Abdu'l-Bahá, which talked about voting being the responsibility or sacred duty of all Bahá'ís, or something along those lines. However, I haven't managed to find that quote again. I did find this quote by the Guardian, though:

"THE VOTING RIGHT

I feel I must reaffirm the vital importance and necessity of the right of voting—a sacred responsibility of which no adult recognized believer should be deprived, unless he is associated with a community that has not as yet been in a position to establish a local Assembly. This distinguishing right which the believer possesses, however, does not carry with it nor does it imply an obligation to cast his vote, if he feels that the circumstances under which he lives do not justify or allow him to exercise that right intelligently and with understanding. This is a matter which should be left to the individual to decide himself according to his own conscience and discretion.

April 28, 1935"

- Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, page 110
I'm not quite sure whether this quote concerns Bahá'í elections or civil elections. The reason that I care so much is that this year is the first year that I would be legally eligible to vote for president. Nevertheless, I haven't really been keeping up with presidential politics. I don't feel very informed, nor do I have strong opinions about political matters, outside of what I have gleaned from the Bahá'í Writings. Therefore, I'm unsure as to my ability to "exercise...[the voting] right intelligently and with understanding." Still, if Bahá'ís are supposed to vote for president, then I will. Otherwise, I have yet to decide if I will vote.

I appreciate any thoughts or advice.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2010
725
New Zealand mainly
#2
The quote you have posted refers to Assemblies, that is, to Bahai internal elections.

Abdu'l-Baha writes:

Thou hast asked regarding the political affairs. In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible. My object in telling the believers that they should not interfere in the affairs of government is this: That they should not make any trouble and that they should not move against the opinion of the government, but obedience to the laws and the administration of the commonwealth is necessary. Now, as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.
see Bahá'í Reference Library - Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, Pages 341-343

Similar instructions, to vote and join movements beneficial to mankind, were given orally to Helen Goodall and Ella Cooper in 1908 (Daily Lessons 65). A letter written on behalf of the Guardian in 1933 says

The Guardian fully recognizes the authenticity and controlling influence of this instruction from Abdu’l-Baha upon the question. He, however, feels under the responsibility of stating that the attitude taken by the Master implies certain reservations. He, therefore, lays it upon the individual conscience to see that in following the Master’s instructions no Baha’i vote for an officer nor Baha’i participation in the affairs of the Republic should involve acceptance by that individual of a program or policy that contravenes any vital principle, spiritual or social, of the Faith.” (NSA statement in The Bahai World volume 6, 1934-6 (publ. 1937), 197-8).
The letter bears a postscript from Shoghi Effendi saying “no vote cast, nor office undertaken, by a Baha’i should necessarily constitute acceptance, by the voter or office-holder, of the entire program of any political party. No Baha’i can be regarded as either a Republican or Democrat as such.”
 
Dec 2009
165
United States
#3
@Sen McGlinn

Thank you very much! I believe that quote by `Abdu'l-Bahá was the one I was remembering. I will try my best to research the candidates and make a decision, while keeping the Bahá'í principles at top priority.
 
Jun 2006
4,316
California
#4
Clex wrote:

I understand that Bahá'ís are not permitted to be affiliated with any political party. Thus we can't vote in primary elections. But concerning the general election for United States president, are Bahá'ís obligated to vote?

My comment:

Actually you can get a non-partisan ballot and vote in the primary election. IN California we haev a non-partisan ballot... (with only non-partisan offices) there have been primaries where anyone can vote for the various candidates as a non-partisan.

We are encouraged to vote and exercise our rights as citizens as long as we are non-partisan:

The friends should endeavor to keep in mind the non-partisan character of the Faith and to employ the attitude of non partisanship, to the greatest extent possible, in the exercise of their civic responsibilities as voters. Bahá'í are, of course, free to vote except, in primaries, but should not express support for any candidate.

Letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated May 25, 1992

(Compilations, NSA USA - Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities)
 

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