By Marnita Coleman,
Special to the AFRO
Most Mondays find pastors resting after their Sunday tasks of serving and leading their followers, but that is not the case now that early voting has started across Maryland.
On the final Monday of the month, a group of clergy gathered at New Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore to organize how, in the two weeks before midterm Election Day, to encourage, educate and energize the community to vote.
The event is spearheaded by Rev. Jerome Stephens, New Shiloh’s associate minister, and some of the city’s most prominent pastors gathered to organize their thoughts about how to harness the urgency of voting at a critical moment in the state of the U.S. democracy.
They are calling themselves the Clergy Caucus, said Rev. Angelique Mason, pastor of Allen AME Church in downtown Baltimore, and their task is to get out to vote.
Rev. Dr. Harold A. Carter Jr., host pastor agrees, “There is nothing like going to the polls and carrying out that which a number of our forebears lived for, sacrificed for and in some instances, died for. Your vote is necessary, your vote is needed. We can still make a difference, that’s what the power of the people is all about, making a difference and making sure your vote is counted. So, on Nov. 8, activate your civic responsibility.”
Normally, midterm elections have low turnout compared to presidential elections, according to election analysts. But beginning in 2018, midterm elections saw a substantial increase in voter participation. And the trend is continuing. As of last Thursday, according to state election officials, 14 million voters have cast ballots, nine million of them in the form of mail-in ballots and an estimated five million were posted in person, according to the University of Florida U.S. Elections Project.
California, Texas, Florida and Georgia are leading in early turnout with 1.5 million showing up in each state so far.
Rev. Kevin Slayton of Northwood-Appold United Methodist Church of East Baltimore said the key issue right now is overcoming widespread efforts at voter suppression that have surfaced in 42 states where legislation has been enacted, or at least considered, to suppress votes.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law recently reported that lawmakers in 27 states have proposed at least 148 election interference bills. Slayton told the gathering of clergy to heed the lyrics of an old Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes song that warned, “It’s time to wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed!”
“We must encourage people to vote all across the country,” added retired Fourth District AME Bishop John R. Bryant. “I want to declare that America is at risk. Democracy is at risk. Justice is at risk and we need to make our voices heard. Those who do not vote are as dangerous as those who do not get vaccinated. Their disease contaminates everybody, a disease that thinks that some few can be up and the majority can be down. We have the weapons of which to fight, prayer and voting. Let God lead and guide us for the life of our nation.”
In a poetic synopsis, Bishop Walter Scott Thomas, Sr., pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church said, “We often talk about what needs to be done or what’s wrong in the city, what’s wrong in the state or what’s wrong in the country. Voting is about deciding who gets to make the decisions, who gets to make those changes. People will be in office who make decisions for us. They will decide our futures and we have a say in who those people are. This is our only opportunity to decide who will make decisions for us.”
In closing, Rev. Dr. Sandra Connor, president of the Baptist Ministers Night Conference encouraged everyone to use whatever it takes to get people to the polls. She said to make phone calls to the membership, send emails, and stand on the street corners with signs saying “get the vote out!”
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