By Anthony Man Staff writer
Democrats searching for every possible Florida vote for Hillary Clinton are expanding their efforts to turn out African-American voters beyond the traditional “souls to the polls” drives to get black churchgoers to early voting sites after Sunday services.
Souls to the polls rallies, marches and caravans on the two Sundays of early voting, Oct. 30 and Nov. 6, is still a major component of Democratic efforts. A group of black religious leaders announced Friday that 15 major events are planned around the state on the two Sundays.
Black political activists and the Clinton campaign are organizing other efforts aimed at getting as many African-American and Caribbean-American voters as possible to start voting when in-person early voting starts today in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings described it as a “recalibration of our souls to the polls in light of early voting and [mail] voting.”
“The truth is, by the Sunday before the election, most people who are in church have already voted,” he said. Hastings’ district includes black neighborhoods in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Hastings said Democrats have knocked on the doors of 30,000 black voters in Broward County. In Palm Beach County, he said, souls to the polls efforts won’t all be concentrated on the traditional last Sunday before Election Day.
Reaching out to younger black voters and black voters in South Florida — especially Broward — is critical, said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
He and U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., accompanied Hastings to seven meetings and other events in Fort Lauderdale, Plantation and Sunrise, all aimed at turning out black voters. Jeffries and Rangel were among more than a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus working in Florida on Friday on behalf of Clinton.
Jeffries, 46, said younger voters need direct messages: that Clinton wants to end mass incarceration while Trump supports expansion of the controversial police practice of stop and frisk. “She wants to move the country forward and deal with issues important to African-American millennials,” he said. “Donald Trump wants to turn back the clock and consistently stereotypes African-Americans in a way that should frighten everyone.”
Historically black colleges and universities are receiving lots of attention, including Thursday’s campaign rally at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. The mostly black, mostly millennial crowd of 2,800 heard pro-Clinton, pro-early voting messages from recording artist DJ Khaled and President Barack Obama.
On Saturday, mayors from across the country participated in the homecoming parade at Florida A&M University, the state’s best known historically black school. Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine has campaigned at FAMU.
In Broward, 23 percent of registered voters are black, which makes it a focus of efforts to “make sure that the African-American voter doesn’t walk to the polls or jog to the polls but runs to the polls,” Jeffries said.
Bishop Victor T. Curry, founder and senior pastor of New Birth Baptist Church Cathedral of Faith International in northwest Miami-Dade County, one of the religious leaders who announced souls to the polls in a conference call with reporters, said it’s essential that “people of faith, especially in the African-American community, have their voices heard in the election.”
The church leaders didn’t specifically say who they were supporting, but their comments favored Clinton and opposed Trump. Curry spoke disapprovingly about those who “want to build a wall around our democracy” and people who “say they want to make America great again.” And, he said, “We have to protect President Obama’s legacy.”
A.J. Richardson, presiding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Florida, said he and the others had to remain nonpartisan, but he added that the “choice is rather obvious for a more progressive agenda.”
“Our community has so much at stake in this election. So much progress has been made in the past eight years that we have to protect and build upon that this program is more important than it has ever been,” Richardson said.
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