The advocacy group CatholicVote is attempting to reach Virginia voters through data that identifies their respective parishes – reflecting how salient the faith has become in American politics under President Biden.
The new strategy involves geofencing, or using data received by apps to identify smartphone users' locations. CatholicVote is aiming to find the voters who actually attend mass in Virginia and reach them through fellow parishioners.
"We are targeting these Catholics with digital advertising direct to their devices," said CatholicVote President Brian Burch. "But we ultimately believe the most effective way to turn them out to vote is a friendly one-on-one conversation with a fellow Catholic."
"CatholicVote's team of volunteers across Virginia are using an app to call fellow Catholics in their communities and ask them to commit to voting. When a person makes a verbal commitment to someone with whom s/he shares a connection, s/he is far more likely to follow through."
There are around 700,000 Catholics in the state. So far, the group is targeting 180 of the more than 200 Catholic parishes in the state of Virginia. Many of those targeted are in Northern Virginia, which has grown in population and helped color the state bluer in recent years.
CatholicVote is technically nonpartisan and its new campaign focuses on turnout. Still, the effect will likely help Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin as devotion to Catholic teaching tends to correlate with conservative political persuasion. Burch has also openly attacked Biden, suggesting Americans weren't "fooled" by his campaign's ads portraying the then-candidate as a faithful Catholic.
The actions of both President Biden, the second president to identify as Catholic, and the Supreme Court have elevated abortion in the national conversation.
The enduring culture war issue could become even more contentious in purple states like Virginia as the Court prepares to decide whether Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban is constitutional. Both sides of the debate view the challenge as an opportunity to weaken the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, ultimately restoring state governments' power in regulating the procedure.
Like Biden, McAuliffe identifies as Catholic and has taken positions that critics describe as flagrantly contradicting Church teaching on the issue.
Both have favored codifying Roe v. Wade, which anti-abortion advocates say would allow doctors to perform the procedure up until birth.
The section of the Catechism discussing abortion says that the procedure and infanticide "are abominable crimes."
It reads: "The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority." The Catechism also warns that "when the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined."