Election season is upon us and that often includes a lot of drama and polarizing advertising.
Bahá’ís have a different way of holding elections; it is designed to emphasize unity. The elections are held without electioneering—Bahá’ís are not allowed to nominate themselves or others. They come together and vote by secret ballot, with the believers casting their ballot after meditating on who they believe to be the most sincere, experienced and capable soul to represent them as their delegate at the national election. It is to be done in a prayerful and meditative way, looking to God for guidance.
“On the election day, the friends must whole-heartedly participate in the elections, in unity and amity, turning their hearts to God, detached from all things but Him, seeking His guidance and supplicating His aid and bounty.”
The individual who gets the most votes in the election goes on to represent their jurisdiction in the election of the national body. Every five years the national bodies convene to elect the international body. Again, this is all done without electioneering or political parties.
By voting in this way, Bahá’ís must become informed of each other’s character. There are no parties to affiliate with, and no coalitions to front. This system is based on the natural outgrowth of being of service and working together as part of a community—as we engage with each other we become apprised of each other’s character. Then when it is time to vote, Bahá’ís contemplate the qualities of each individual, without considering their race, ethnicity, gender, social status, political party or other external consideration.
“ … it is incumbent upon the chosen delegates to consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience…."
Being engaged in the community increases awareness of each other’s character and helps each Bahai to grow, thus Bahá’í elections are extremely important. By growing ourselves and getting to know each other better, unity is encouraged. Each Bahá’í community continues to strengthen together, rather than pull apart.
“to be able to make a wise choice at election time, it is necessary to be in close and continued contact with all … activities…local as well as national… It is only in this way that a believer can develop a true social consciousness and acquire a true sense of responsibility… Bahá’í community life thus makes it a duty for every loyal and faithful believer to become an intelligent, well-informed and responsible elector…”
“they consider their participation in Bahá’í elections not only as a right they exercise, but as a spiritual obligation which, when discharged in the proper Bahá’í spirit, contributes to the health and growth of the Bahá’í community”
While Bahá’ís must be loyal to the government of the country in which they live, they are not allowed to be involved in partisan politics. Unity is the goal of the Faith, and by its very nature joining a political party is divisive. Bahá’ís are advised to vote in both Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í elections, by selecting the candidate that they believe is best qualified for the position and has the best character.