US ELEC­TION 2016 Black clergy mak­ing last-sec­ond push to get out the vote

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

BLACK CLERGY are tak­ing to the pul­pits and the streets na­tion­wide this week­end in hopes of en­er­gis­ing black vot­ers ahead of elec­tion day, aim­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial con­test be­tween Hillary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump.

Many ex­pect a drop in black-voter par­tic­i­pa­tion this year, pri­mar­ily be­cause Barack Obama, the na­tion’s first African-Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, is not on the bal­lot. His his­toric can­di­dacy in 2008 and re­elec­tion in 2012 helped to fuel record black turnout.

“Vot­ing, for us, is both a spir­i­tual and a po­lit­i­cal is­sue,” said the Rev­erend Wil­liam Bar­ber, pres­i­dent of the North Carolina NAACP and ar­chi­tect of the Moral Monday Move­ment in North Carolina. Bar­ber will be one of sev­eral clergy at the his­toric River­side Church in New York City on Sun­day evening for a re­vival ser­vice to en­cour­age vot­ing on Tues­day.

In bat­tle­ground states like Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, other black clergy are ex­tend­ing ‘Souls to the Polls’ ef­forts for a sec­ond week­end to get black church­go­ers to cast bal­lots early or on elec­tion day. Souls to the Polls events are based around black churches that en­cour­age their parish­ioners to vote – although they can­not tell them who to sup­port – and try to make it eas­ier for el­derly, busy or just re­luc­tant vot­ers to cast bal­lots.

PRES­I­DEN­TIAL ELEC­TION

The num­ber of African-Amer­i­can vot­ers has in­creased steadily: 12.9 mil­lion in 2000, 14 mil­lion in 2004, 16 mil­lion in 2008 and 17.8 mil­lion in 2012. In the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, blacks for the first time voted at a higher rate, 66.2 per cent, than did whites, with a rate of 64.1 per cent, or Asian-Amer­i­cans or His­pan­ics, with rates of about 48 per cent each.

No one ex­pects those num­bers for blacks this time around, said Der­rick L. McRae, pas­tor of The Ex­pe­ri­ence Chris­tian Cen­ter in Or­lando, Florida. “But I’m pretty con­fi­dent we’re go­ing to show up.”

Obama trav­elled to Florida yes­ter­day to cam­paign for Clin­ton and en­cour­age get-out-thevote ef­forts. Clin­ton and Trump will be criss­cross­ing the coun­try, too, with the Demo­crat in Michi­gan, as well as Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio, and the Re­pub­li­can in New Hamp­shire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Penn­syl­va­nia.

Get-out-the-vote ef­forts are un­der way out­side the churches as well, in vote-rich places like Ohio, where Clin­ton will ap­pear this week­end with hip-hop mogul Jay Z and other artistes who she hopes can per­suade black mil­len­ni­als to vote for her.

At sev­eral his­tor­i­cally black col­leges and univer­si­ties like North Carolina Cen­tral Univer­sity and Bethune-Cook­man Univer­sity, stu­dents have held marches to the polls to en­cour­age early vot­ing, not just for pres­i­dent but for other is­sues they care about.

CRIM­I­NAL JUS­TICE RE­FORM

“For Florid­i­ans, the is­sues of so­cial jus­tice, crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form and eco­nomic par­ity are also crit­i­cal,” said Sa­lan­dra Ben­ton, con­vener of the Florida Na­tional Coali­tion on Black Civic Par­tic­i­pa­tion and the Florida Black Women’s Round Ta­ble.

Florida and North Carolina are con­sid­ered key states for both Trump and Clin­ton, with the po­ten­tial to push ei­ther of them to­wards the elec­toral votes needed to win the pres­i­dency.

In ad­di­tion to help­ing peo­ple vote, sev­eral black church­go­ers also plan to mon­i­tor polling places to en­sure po­ten­tial vot­ers are not in­tim­i­dated by any­one try­ing to de­press turnout through trick­ery or mis­in­for­ma­tion.

“If it’s an older woman who’s on a cane, if it’s some­body who’s thirsty, if it’s some­one who just needs some en­cour­age­ment, we’re there to do just that,” said the Rev­erend Dr Alyn E. Waller of Enon Taber­na­cle Bap­tist Church in Philadel­phia. “And if any­one comes around to do any­thing that would de­ter from the free, fair op­por­tu­nity to vote, we will shut that down.”

Law­suits have been filed around the na­tion over al­le­ga­tions of vot­ing in­tim­i­da­tion, in­clud­ing in Ohio, where a fed­eral judge is­sued a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der against Trump’s cam­paign and his friend Roger Stone. It says that any­one who en­gages in in­tim­i­da­tion or ha­rass­ment in­side or near Ohio polling places will face con­tempt of court charges.

In other states, in­clud­ing Michi­gan, Ne­vada and Ari­zona, judges are con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar com­plaints.

AP

In this Septem­ber 22, 2016 file photo, the Rev­erend Wil­liam Bar­ber speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Char­lotte, North Carolina. Black clergy have taken to the pul­pits and the streets na­tion­wide in hopes of en­er­gis­ing black vot­ers ahead of elec­tion day, aim­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the pres­i­den­tial con­test be­tween Hillary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump.

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