Thomas said Black churches’ election-time tradition known as “Souls to the Polls” has expanded to include more than Black congregations. “People are really annoyed and tired and upset and they’re determined to vote. So now, our Souls to the Polls go beyond the Black church. We have mosques and synagogues that have joined us in getting out to vote.”
Rabbi Frank DeWoskin of Temple Beth Emet in Cooper City, Florida, is planning to participate in a Souls to the Polls event for Black and Jewish leaders at the African American Research Library, a polling site in Fort Lauderdale, on the Sunday before Election Day.
“When we see one faith group joining another faith group, I think that fires people up and that creates that level of excitement and energy to go vote,” said DeWoskin.
Faith in Florida also is working with some 800 congregations in more than 35 counties through phone banking as well as door knocking and canvassing within a 5-mile radius of their houses of worship.
Faiths United to Save Democracy is mobilizing with pastors as well as rabbis and imams in 10 states, from Arizona to Alabama and from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin.
In Ohio, Jewish and Christian leaders affiliated with Faith in Public Life planned to march to the secretary of state’s office in Columbus on Thursday (Oct. 27) for a prayer vigil “for peace at the polls and a multi-faith, multiracial democracy that works for all Ohioans.”
Taylor, of Sojourners, said his group is framing the mobilization efforts not only as a counter to new voter restrictions, but as good theology.
“Voting itself is kind of a sacred responsibility, and it is our way of honoring and protecting Imago Dei, the core belief that we’re made in the image and likeness of God,” said Taylor. “Sadly, tragically, voting rights has become metastasized into such a partisan issue and such a political issue. … But it’s also a moral issue, and any effort to try to deter or suppress someone’s ability to vote is also a kind of attack on Imago Dei itself.”
Douglas, who will be a first-time poll chaplain this year, echoes Taylor’s argument. “These people matter; their voices matter. They matter. If I can encourage one person to vote for the first time, I think that’s sacred work.”
Douglas, a local chairperson for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, said part of ensuring fair elections is making poor and low-wage workers aware that their issues are at stake. The forums conducted on topics such as the needs of the unhoused, racism, policing and the lack of health care were, Douglas said, “a means to encourage people who are impacted by those things, to understand that they are on the ballot in Wisconsin. We are encouraging people to vote because they are on the ballot.”
Between now and Election Day, the focus is less on theology and more on the pragmatic work of voting. Douglas has been “text banking” first-time voters and no-shows from previous years, encouraging them to go to the polls. And poll chaplains like Georgia’s Lee May are preparing with the aim of ensuring fair access to the ballot.
“We want to make sure that we are bringing peace to the polls,” May said. “We want to be proactive in ensuring that everyone who desires to vote can vote and can vote peaceably and that their vote can count.”
This article originally appeared here.