Souls to the Polls urges minorities to get out and vote

October 26, 2014


By Amanda McKenzie, Reporter
Last Updated: Sunday, October 26, 2014, 5:00 PM


EATONVILLE -- Congregations across Florida came together Sunday to urge African-American and Latino churchgoers to get out and vote early in a push called "Souls to the Polls."


Hundreds gathered at one such event in Eatonville to join together in fellowship and board one of a dozen buses to a nearby early voting site in an effort not only to attract minorities to voting, but also to celebrate their faith and freedom of religion.


It wasn't what some may consider a typical political rally. Sure, there were signs campaigning for candidates, but all those involved were there because of one common belief — their faith in God.


"A lot of times, people say church and state are separate, but just having the church come together and also understand the importance of the vote, and getting your voices heard," said Jarvis Wheeler, who attended Sunday's rally.


Guests agreed that sometimes everyday demands can get in the way of finding time to vote.


"You have food, you don't have to worry about going home and worrying about cooking a meal and then rushing back out to vote," said voter Deitrice Glenn.


Souls to the Polls is part of a statewide effort to engage minorities in several issues, including the "Live Free" campaign, which seeks to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people.


"I am one of almost 2 million Floridians who cannot vote because of a prior felony conviction," said Desmond Meade, the Live Free campaign's state director. "For people like me who don't have a voice, it's something real special to see other people step up and vote on our behalf."


Organizers say they believe once time is served, the right to vote should be restored.


"As people of faith, we believe in the redemption power," Meade said. 


Festivals like Sunday's in Eatonville were held throughout the state to promote restoring the rights of formerly incarcerated people, a ban that affects more than 1.5 million Floridians.


The group has also held similar campaigns to support driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.