Souls To The Polls is a faith-based transportation grassroots initiative providing rides to area polling places on today, Election Day, for those who are without a reliable means to do so. Souls To The Polls has exploded as a Get Out The Vote process in major cities all over the United States. The idea has gained popularity in a number of states especially Florida and Wisconsin as a way to rally large voter turnout among African Americans.

But, in Ohio it became a major point of contention when the Ohio Secretary of State sought to limit the Souls To The Polls event by cutting off the last three days of early voting which would impact the Sunday before today’s election Get-Out-The-Vote event. An estimated 30 percent of registered voters casted their ballot in Ohio, and churches did their part by driving people to polling places.

In Ohio in 2008, about 100,000 people voted during the last weekend before the election. A new Ohio law would have cut off early voting on the Friday before the election, but a federal judge declared it unconstitutional because some groups such as military personnel were exempted. The state appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost.

In many states with early voting, the Sunday before Election Day in 2008 was a church-based political event in which minority congregations went en masse to polling places and cast their ballots. That year in Florida, 33.2 percent of all African-American voters and 23.6 percent of Latino voters cast ballots on that final Sunday, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

There was a new effort in St. Louis to help people get to the polls. “This is an effort by churches who are concerned about the voice of the people being heard to educate – one, educate our congregations individually about the importance of the vote. Not just the vote for the president, but all of the vote,” says Reverend Traci Blackmon one of the organizers.

Over 40 churches in St. Louis and Jefferson Counties participated in the effort, which is non-partisan, says Dr. Robert Scott, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church and also one of the organizers.

On the only Sunday of early voting for the presidential election, organizers in Tampa, Florida guided black voters from churches to ballots in events throughout the bay area, including a march led by former Gov. Charlie Crist. Over 50 local predominantly African-American churches did some soul searching after church on Sunday afternoon in Panama City, Florida. The churches partnered with the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in a rally to get “souls to the polls.” Throughout Florida, thousands of marchers from black churches followed up their Sunday worship services with get-out-to-vote rallies to promote early voting.

The stepped-up effort in many states is a response by activists worried that new election rules, from tougher photo identification requirements to fewer days of early voting, are unfairly targeting minority voters — specifically, African-Americans who tend to vote heavily for Democrats. Some leaders compare their registration and get-out-the-vote efforts to the racial struggle that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. With the Presidents’ re-election, some may credit the great African-American upsurge in voting throughout the country to the efforts of the many who participated in Souls to the Polls.

  • February 12-16, 2018
    Board of Bishops' and International Ministers & Lay Association Meeting
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  • February 14, 2018
    Ash Wednesday
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