Local clergy organize “Blackout at the Polls” over early voting locations

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - On the second day of early voting in Shelby County, local clergy members came together to organize a “Blackout at the Polls.”

They say they’re demonstrating to encourage people to vote and protest the lack of early voting locations in the county.

The African American Clergy Collective of Tennessee, Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis, and Up the Vote 901 say they’re encouraging to vote early and having one poll location open for early voting isn’t enough for Shelby County.

Dozens of local clergy members gathered outside the Shelby County Election Commission Office to make a statement protesting the lack of polling places during the first two days of early voting.

“This is holy week and we do holy work,” said Founder of Up the Vote 901 Dr. Earle Fisher. “It’s Maundy Thursday. This is why you see a sacramentalizing everybody who standing here in this moment because this is spiritual for us and churches want to be open. People want equitable access to the ballot box. So we’re gathered here today to ensure that that happens and not just in this election but in every election.”

Founder of “Up The Vote 901″ Dr. Earle Fisher says several people coming to support their efforts struggled to find parking downtown or had to pay for parking to cast their ballot.

“We want to try to prove what it takes to get people equitable access,” said Dr. Fisher.

This demonstration comes just days after a Shelby County judge ruled a lawsuit filed by these groups did not show sufficient evidence that the Shelby County Election Commission violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Even though they were on the losing end of that lawsuit, Founder and President of the Black Clergy Collective of Memphis Pastor J. Lawrence Turner says, their efforts to increase voter turnout don’t stop there.

“One of the things we’re contending, is more people will participate in the democratic process when they have greater access,” said Pastor Turner. “Having one site open for a county that has 650,000 registered voters is inadequate any day of early voting.”

According to the Shelby County Election Commission, 164 people voted in-person Wednesday and 217 people voted in-person Thursday.

The Election Commission will have five more early voting location open Saturday at the AgriCenter, Arlington Safe Room, Baker Community Center, Dave Wells Community Center and Glenview Community Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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