The Ultimate Managed Hosting Platform
For the Rev. Jimmy Gates Sr., the 2008 presidential election year was one to remember — and not just because it yielded a historic result as the nation elected its first Black president.
1000

For the Rev. Jimmy Gates Sr., the 2008 presidential election year was one to remember — and not just because it yielded a historic result as the nation elected its first Black president.

The pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cleveland recalls how, on the last Sunday of early voting before the general election, he and his congregation traveled in a caravan of packed buses, vans and cars to the city’s Board of Elections office and joined a line of voters that seemed to stretch a mile.

“What a sight to see,” Gates said. “Seniors, middle-aged people, young people.”

In recent election cycles, Black church congregations across the country have launched get-out-the-vote campaigns commonly referred to as “souls to the polls.” To counteract racist voter suppression tactics that date back to the Jim Crow era, early voting in the Black community is stressed from pulpits nearly as much as it is by the candidates seeking their support.

But voter mobilization in Black church communities will look much different in 2020, due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic that has infected millions across the U.S. and has taken a disproportionate toll on Black America.

Churches have organized socially distant caravans with greatly reduced transportation capacity for early voting and Election Day ballot-casting. Church volunteers are phone-banking and canvasing the homes of their members to ensure mail-in and absentee ballots are requested and hand-delivered to election board offices or drop boxes before the deadlines.

Youtube video thumbnail

But outreach has been complicated because many churches have been holding services virtually for months, with some having only recently resumed worship in-person.

Black Voters Matter, a national voting rights group that organizes in 15 states, is trying to help churches assist people who count on a “souls to the polls” ride on or before Election Day.

“It’s not whether there are enough votes out there,” said Cliff Albright, a co-founder of the group. “It’s whether we have the strategy, the resources and the election protection to make sure that the voters who want to show up are actually able to do so and be counted.”

The Associated Press interviewed pastors, congregants and voting rights advocates nationwide to get a sense of how efforts to mobilize Black voters would play out during a deadly pandemic when Black people have been disproportionately affected by virus-related layoffs, and issues of systemic racism are top of mind.

1000
1000
1000
1000
1000
1000

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here