Oct 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

"Souls to the polls" during COVID-19

Students get off a Black Votes Matter bus in Fayetteville, N.C., in March.

Students get off a Black Votes Matter bus in Fayetteville, N.C., in March. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The coronavirus has complicated the get-out-the-vote effort for Black churches in 2020.

Why it matters: Those churches are a key part of broader efforts in the Black community to push back against voter suppression tactics, the AP reports.

  • 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.
  • Many churches are still forced to hold virtual services, limiting their organizational might.

"It's not whether there are enough votes out there," said Cliff Albright, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter.

  • "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."

Flashback: "Souls to the polls" traces back to the 1955 assassination of the Rev. George Lee, a Black Mississippi entrepreneur, by white supremacists after he helped nearly 100 Black residents register to vote.

  • The cemetery where Lee is buried has served as a polling place.

The bottom line: Some Black Americans say they want to vote in person because of President Trump's overt campaign against mail-in voting.

  • "I'm now determined more than ever to go to the polls and cast my ballot in person, as opposed to by mail," said 53-year-old Jane Bonner of Georgia.
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