A new Gallup poll shows that 42 percent of Illinoisans go to church, higher by far than Vermont's 24 percent but lower than our friends in Alabama, Louisiana or South Carolina, where 58 percent set aside Sunday mornings for worship.
Actually, according to the findings of 68,000 interviews conducted over the past couple of years, Illinois church attendance is right at the national average.
Okay, so a healthy number of us go to church each week. Do these church goers vote in elections or participate in politics? National stats in 2004 indicated when regular churchgoers went to the polls, they voted more often with traditional family values candidates, thus were dubbed "values voters."
So what's up in Illinois? Where's the values voters? Maybe politicians need to understand that NOT voting and NOT being registered to vote IS a vote. Disinterest of values voters should send a message to those running so hard, and the message may just be, "Give us a reason to care."
People don't vote for several reasons, including the perception that there's no one or nothing of interest on the ballot, that their vote won't matter or that they don't care who is in office. Being "too busy" is just not a palatable excuse. People make time for what they think is important.
Candidates can blame an apathetic public, but the fact is that it takes human contact to get out the vote, not just impersonal campaign ads, recorded calls and glossy mailers. Few have the time or energy to make all those needed personal contacts themselves and few precious volunteers join the ranks. It's a complicated process, there's no doubt.
If you are one of the four out of ten that attend church in Illinois next week, look around. The people sitting next to you need to know that their voices aren't making a difference in their community if they don't vote. Make it your mission to change their perspective.
The future of Illinois depends on those values voters.