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PA Wire
World News

Black clergy take to the streets to mobilise voters in US election

by Hannah Tooley

The USA will vote for either Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump on the 8th November 2016.

Both candidates say they are Christian and have been campaigning in churches around the country.

There is expected to be a drop in black voter participation this year, primarily because Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, is not on the ballot.

His historic candidacy in 2008 and re-election in 2012 helped to fuel record black voter turnout.

Rev William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and architect of the Moral Monday Movement in North Carolina said: "Voting, for us, is both a spiritual and a political issue."

In battleground states, including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, other black clergy are extending "Souls to the Polls" efforts for a second weekend to get black churchgoers to cast ballots early or on election day.

Souls to the Polls events are based around black churches and encourage their parishioners to vote - although they cannot tell them who to support - and try to make it easier for elderly, busy or just reluctant voters to cast ballots.

The number of African-American voters has increased steadily: 12.9 million in 2000, 14 million in 2004, 16 million in 2008 and 17.8 million in 2012.

In the last presidential election year, black people for the first time voted at a higher rate, 66.2%, than did whites, with a rate of 64.1%, or Asian-Americans or Hispanics, with rates of about 48% each.

Derrick McRae, pastor of The Experience Christian Centre in Orlando, Florida says that he is confident black people will vote again this year: "I'm pretty confident we're going to show up."

Several black churchgoers also plan to monitor polling places to ensure potential voters are not intimidated by anyone trying to depress turnout through trickery or misinformation.

"If it's an older woman who's on a cane, if it's somebody who's thirsty, if it's someone who just needs some encouragement, we're there to do just that," said Rev Dr Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

"And if anyone comes around to do anything that would deter from the free, fair opportunity to vote, we will shut that down."

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