Question: "Should Orthodox Christians vote?"
There are no canons of the Church that either require Christians to vote, or forbid them from doing so. There are restrictions on the involvement of clergy and monastics in political matters, but not laity... so long as they do not take positions clearly at odds with the teachings of the Church. Clergy may not run for office, and while they can and do comment on moral issues that may have a political element, they are generally not permitted to engage publicly in purely political matters.
The Russian Orthodox Church has a document which addresses a wide range of social and contemporary issues entitled "The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church," and in its section on the Church and politics, it says:
In [the] face of political differences, contradictions and struggle, the Church preaches peace and co-operation among people holding various political views. She also acknowledges the presence of various political convictions among her episcopate, clergy and laity, except for such as to lead clearly to actions contradicting the faith and moral norms of the church Tradition.
It is impossible for the Church’s Supreme Authorities and for the clergy, hence for the plenitude of the Church to participate in such activities of political organisations and election processes as public support for the running political organisations or particular candidates, election campaigns and so forth. The clergy are not allowed to be nominated for elections to any body of representative power at any level. At the same time, nothing should prevent bishops, clergy and laity from participation in the expression of the popular will by voting along with other citizens....
On October 8, 1919, St. Tikhon appealed to the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church not to interfere in the political struggle. He pointed out in particular that the servants of the Church «by virtue of their rank should be above and outside any political interests. They should remember the canonical rules of the Holy Church whereby she prohibits her servants from interfering in the political life of the country, joining any political parties and, what is more, from making the liturgical rites a tool of political demonstrations»....
The fact that the Plenitude of the Church does not participate in political struggle, in the work of political parties and in election processes does not mean her refusal to express publicly her stand on socially significant issues and to present this stand to governmental bodies in any country and on any level. This position may be expressed only by Councils, the church authorities and those empowered to act for them. In any case, the right to express it cannot be delegated to public offices or political or other secular organisations.
V. 3. Nothing can prevent the Orthodox laity from participating in the work of legislative, executive and judicial bodies and political organisations. This involvement took place under various political systems, such as autocracy, constitutional monarchy and various forms of the republican system. The participation of the Orthodox laity in civic and political processes was difficult only in the contexts of non-Christian rule and the regime of state atheism.
In participating in government and political processes, the Orthodox laity are called to base their work on the norms of the gospel’s morality, the unity of justice and mercy (Ps. 85:10), the concern for the spiritual and material welfare of people, the love of the fatherland and the desire to transform the surrounding world according to the word of Christ.
At the same time, the Christian, a politician or a statesmen, should be well aware that in historical reality and, all the more so, in the context of today’s divided and controversial society, most decisions adopted and political actions taken tend to benefit only a part of society, while restricting or infringing upon the interests and wishes of others. Many such decisions and actions are stained with sin or connivance with sin. Precisely for this reason the Orthodox politician or statesman is required to be very sensitive spiritually and morally.
The Christian who works in the sphere of public and political building is called to seek the gift of special self-sacrifice and special self-denial. He needs to be utterly attentive to his own spiritual condition, so that his public or political work may not turn from service into an end in itself that nourishes pride, greed and other vices. It should be remembered that «principalities or powers, all things were created by him, and for him… and by him all things stand» (Col. 1:16-17). St. Gregory the Theologian, addressing the rulers, wrote: «It is with Christ that you command, with Christ that you govern, from Him that you have received the sword». St. John Chrysostom says: «A true king is he who conquers anger and jealousy and voluptuousness and subjects everything to the laws of God and does not allow the passion for pleasure to prevail in his soul. I would like to see such a man in command of the people, and the throne, and the cities and the provinces, and the troops, because he who subjected the physical passions to reason would easily govern people also according to the divine laws… But he who appears to command people but in fact accommodates himself to wrath and ambition and pleasure, … will not know how to dispose of the power»....
V. 4. The participation of the Orthodox laity in the work of governmental bodies and political processes may be both individual and corporate, within special Christian (Orthodox) political organisations or Christian (Orthodox) units of larger political associations. In both cases, the faithful have the right to choose and express their political convictions, to make decisions and to carry out appropriate work. At the same time, lay people who participate in public or political activity individually or within various organisations do it independently, without identifying their political work with the stand of the Church Plenitude or any of the canonical church institutions or speaking for them. At the same time, the supreme church authority does not give special blessing upon the political activity of the laity....If we involve ourselves in politics, we are not free to take positions that are clearly opposed to the teachings of the Church. Thus, for example, it is not possible for one to be pro-abortion, and an Orthodox Christian. However, there are often complicated choices that have to be made, and the Church is not going tell people who to vote for. But one should be guided by the teachings of Scripture and Tradition, and vote -- or not vote -- according to their own consciences. As is true of all that we say and do, we should always keep in mind that we will one day have to give an account to God. May God give us all wisdom and guide us in the way that we should go.