By David G. Bjornstrom

What is Responsible Voting?  

October 20, 2020
Column: Catching Air

Since we are responsible for the actions of those we elect, how should we vote when there is no perfect candidate? Obviously, the same way we make other prudential decisions in an imperfect world… we prioritize and weigh competing issues and considerations. This does not make us a “single issue” voter but we do have to prioritize the most important issues.

The first among human rights: Life

We prioritize and judge between competing issues by weighing their relative importance. First and foremost, especially as a Catholic, our voting should always recognize that the role of government is to protect life, liberty and property, in that order. 

Pope Francis has said that “The right to life is the first among human rights.” The issue of abortion must therefore always outweigh mere economic issues that only affect our finances such as, for example, tax policy, employment or wage laws.

The abortion issue will also necessarily outweigh issues like immigration, health care, the environment or race issues, which may be very important but are still secondary to the outright killing of millions of unborn babies through abortion.

In choosing a candidate, we should also be realistic about what he is really likely to do once in office.

Look at track record, not merely words

A candidate’s clear track record in support of the right to life should far outweigh any vague, overblown suspicions by the liberal news media that he may do something bad in the future. We should never vote for a pro-abortion candidate based on his grand, exaggerated campaign promises to solve the world’s problems, especially when that candidate already has a poor track record.

This is consistent with Catholic teaching on the morality of indirect participation in evil.

“Formal cooperation” is when someone participates in another’s wrongdoing while sharing the evil intent, even indirectly such as by voting that person into office. Formal cooperation is always sinful and may even be mortal sin in the case of grave evils like abortion. “Material cooperation” is when someone participates without sharing the evil intent. Material cooperation is still morally wrong when there are not “proportionately serious” reasons to reluctantly tolerate the evil result.

But, what about…

Can there ever be “proportionately serious reasons” to justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate? No, there cannot. There is no proportionality between an innocent baby’s right to life and the other current political issues since the right to life is the first and primary human right, categorically and qualitatively different from any others. While there may be a lot of important and often debatable issues, none can compensate for the death of millions through abortion.

Even if we don’t like everything about a pro-life candidate, or if we happen to prefer some things about the opposing candidate, there can be no moral allowance for the intrinsic evil of abortion. It is always and essentially wrong to vote for a candidate who will use the government’s power and our tax dollars to kill innocent children through abortion.

Similar principles extend to the other big issues of our day. It would be wrong to vote for a candidate whose positions conflict with traditional marriage, family and religious freedom since those are essential elements of our Christian faith and American culture. We must never be complicit with any politician seeking to undermine the most basic human rights, no matter how much we might like his positions on some of the other issues.

Is voting a moral decision? You bet, and the stakes are high for our country as well as for our souls.



David G. Bjornstrom is a Santa Rosa, CA-based attorney at law with 36 years specializing in business, estate and tax law. He is also a serious Catholic and may be reached at

David G. Bjornstrom is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar and retired California attorney at law with 38 years specializing in business, estate and... MORE »

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