Black church leaders with $2.6M budget organizing voter turnout solutions

·2 min read

The faith leaders could mobilize hundreds of thousands of voters to take their ”souls to the polls” for the midterm elections.

A grassroots organization led by faith leaders representing more than 1,000 Georgia churches has created a voting rights organization that will emphasize education and get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of this November’s election, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Faith Works, which can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of parishioners, is a direct response to the state’s restrictive voting law that was passed last year. Under the new law, for instance, fewer absentee drop boxes are allowed; it prohibits water and food distribution to voters waiting in queues to vote.

Republican Herschel Walker is challenging incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. for the U.S. Senate, which is considered one of the key races during the midterm elections. (AP Photo)
Republican Herschel Walker is challenging incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga. for the U.S. Senate, which is considered one of the key races during the midterm elections. (AP Photo)

“We are rising together because our democracy has come under attack from within — and like generations before us, this moment in history and our faith are calling for us to act,” Bishop Reginald Jackson told the AJC. He leads the Sixth Episcopal District of the AME Church, which comprises the more than 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia.

The Sixth District of the AME Church is also among several plaintiffs that have filed a federal lawsuit to abolish parts of the voting law, according to an earlier AJC report.

Georgia is the site of several key races that could have national implications, including the gubernatorial race between Republican incumbent Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, as well as the race for a U.S. Senate seat between Democratic incumbent Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Herschel Walker.

Meanwhile, Jackson told the AJC this week that Faith Works plans to revitalize the long-standing tradition of getting “Souls to the Polls” by mobilizing parishioners for Sunday early voting days, advertising through social media and speaking out about voting access so that voters know their rights.

Faith Works leaders, The New York Times has reported, have also teamed with pastors across Georgia to host town hall meetings with leading national voting rights figures. Last week, more than 350 people were on a call to discuss voting rights with Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division. There has also been a meeting with Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C.

These high-profile meetings are very intentional, Faith Works leaders explained. They believe the church has the power to influence voter participation, particularly in rural areas.

“Let’s be clear: People will trust their pastors,” the Rev. Lee May, a pastor from outside of Atlanta told The Times. “They trust their churches, and we want to really utilize that and helping to get people to turn out to vote.”

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