Local Churches host “Souls to the Polls” to Increase Voter Awareness

Early voters gathered at the B.L. Perry Jr. Library on Sunday, October 30, from 10a.m.- 6p.m. to cast their ballots in the 2016 election.

Many campaign teams rallied outside the voting precinct to wave signs in support of their candidates. Local churches also came out to support as part of an event called “Souls to the Polls” which was put on by Bethel AME Church and other churches to increase voter awareness.

Candidates such as Alan Williams, Patrick Murphy, and Rocky Hanna also attended alongside Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Reverend Dr. Julius H. McAllister, Jr., pastor of Bethel A.M.E. church, said the church has been participating in “Souls to the Polls” for three years.

“Souls to the Polls is an opportunity for persons of the faith to come together and mobilize in such a way that we engage ourselves in the political process. It’s a church initiative. It started in the church. The foundation is the church,” said Rev. McAllister.

He also said that B.L. Perry Library has had more voter turnout than any other precinct in the state of Florida. “For the last two years, either Dr. B.L. Perry Library or the Smith-Williams Center have been the number one precinct in the state of Florida for the last few years because the church has gotten behind this initiative.

Connie Jenkins-Pye and Tiffany Randolph attended on behalf of Bethel and the Chi Upsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. They expressed their decision to get out and vote.

“I voted because I wanted to make a difference. I believe it’s better to vote early and get it out the way.” said Randolph.

“It’s important to vote because our ancestors fought for the right to vote,” said Jenkins-Pye. Jenkins-Pye explained that voting is important to her because she had a family member that was once killed by the Ku Klux Klan for expressing his right. Both ladies say they plan to bring more awareness to the cause for the next election.

Deborah Cozart-Hawkins voted at the precinct and explained how effective voting was this year.

“It was easier than it has been over the last ten years. This year [the precinct] has new equipment.”

Hawkins expressed the need for more citizens to vote. “If we want a change to happen this is our opportunity. Sometimes you may feel that your vote [doesn’t] count but it might be just that one vote that could have made somebody win or lose,” said Cozart-Hawkins.

Citizens are expecting a bigger turnout for next week's “Souls to the Polls” event which will be held on Sunday, November 6th.