After rallying congregants to go directly from church to the voting booth in “Souls to the Polls” programs during the 2008 presidential election, many black church leaders are now ringing the alarm again in 2020 to mobilize their parishioners to vote in droves before Election Day.
“Family, this is the most important vote of my lifetime. And this Sunday, October 25th, is an early voting Sunday. We’re asking everyone to leave church. Leave virtual or in person service … and vote!” the Rev. Greg Lewis, executive director of Souls to the Polls Milwaukee, said in an announcement on Facebook Friday.
Souls to the Polls Milwaukee Program Coordinator Bruce Colburn told The Christian Post Monday that the response to the effort has been “very good, very supportive” so far.
“People understand that this is a very important election and it affects their future very strongly,” he said.
More than 500 Milwaukee faith leaders joined the push to get voters to cast their ballots at the Midtown Center, where several of them shared their views on the effort at a press conference highlighted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"If you know your history, you know that we're standing on the backs of people who died for us to have this moment in time," Missionary Rochelle Landingham said. "This is what they died for way back when — for us to vote in 2020."
While some prominent Christian leaders like California megachurch pastor Fred Price Jr. have suggested that abstaining from the voting process is an acceptable response, Milwaukee Pastor Rodney Campbell stressed on Sunday how important it is for Christians to exercise their right to vote.
"Tell your congregations you've got to vote," Campbell said.
"Every time when we've had a great movement, it's been by the people of God. Anytime we wanted to make change, it's been by people of God. So why are the people of God not leading the way again? It's time for the believers to stand up and run to the poll, and bring somebody with us," he said.
In South Florida, members from at least 22 of South Miami-Dade’s black churches gathered at Martin Memorial AME Church on Sunday, the Miami Herald reported.
Rapper Common, whose real name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn, was part of the effort organized by local pastors and he described voting as “an act of letting God work through you.”
“It’s a blessed and beautiful Sunday. There’s no place I’d rather be than in South Dade, Florida,” said Common from a stage set up outside Purple Church in Perrine, the publication reported. “You encouraging people to go out and vote is an act of letting God work through you.”
In Canton, Ohio, where the first Sunday of early voting attracted long lines of voters, Bishop G.L. Evans II told WOSU that COVID-19 forced them to become more creative in their “Souls to the Polls” efforts.
“Because of COVID we have to be a little more creative, so now we’re just being more visible, more Facebook, more (social) media, and using pastors to let them know the polls are open on Sundays,” Evans said.
This year has seen more early voters than the 2016 election, with 58.6 million ballots cast so far, according to the Associated Press. Some experts expect a record-breaking turnout as supporters for President Donald Trump as well as those for Democratic nominee Joe Biden are calling it one of the most important elections in U.S. history.