Souls to the Polls is an army of faith. Our mission is to organize a power bloc of voters through an alliance of inner-city churches. Our goal is to bring 100,000 souls to the polls in Milwaukee.
Churches are the heart of Souls to the Polls. Souls to the Polls is an organization of inner-city church pastors working with their congregations to inform, mobilize and lead people from the community. The churches are working to engage church members, their families and neighbors as decision makers on issues that affect community members every day.
On July 12, 2018, over 120 religious leaders convened to launch Souls to the Polls- 2018 with a commitment to educate, register and transport community residents to voting sites for the critical Governor’s race. Souls to the Polls canvassed 3,400 homes, registered voters, used media to reach people in the broader community and drove hundreds of people to polling sites on election day. This increased Milwaukee voter turn-out in November 2018 and Governor Walker was finally removed from office. photo
In 2020, the ministers organized a massive voter campaign kick-off on February 17 at New Holy Tabernacle Church. More than 40 ministers, hundreds of congregation members and concerned citizens rallied to prepare for the February 18 Primary election. The 2020 campaign moved forward. Churches agreed to set up voter registration kiosks in the church. Women from the churches were trained to use donated I-pads to register voters. Events were being scheduled when COVID -19 struck.
Overnight, everything had changed. Churches were closed, large gatherings became dangerous and door-to-door outreach was off the table. Souls to the Polls had to redesign our entire program so that outreach was by phone or email, meetings were on Zoom and helping people register to vote was long distance. We also had to expand our virtual program to include requesting absentee ballots.
On top of this, some state politicians were creating new barriers to voting. There was a plan to purge the voter rolls of names. Souls to the Polls worked with other groups across the state to defeat that proposal. Republicans stopped the Governor from changing the election to an all-mail election using absentee ballots. Then, the legislature stopped him from delaying the vote until conditions were safer. Instead hundreds of thousands of voters had to stand in lines, in the rain and unprotected from COVID, to exercise their right to vote.
We are now fighting on several fronts:
- Voter registration and mobilization: Church member canvassers are doing outreach by phone, helping church members register to vote if needed and request applications for absentee ballots.
- Voter outreach and education: Ministers have been speaking on religious and community radio stations to keep people updated on the changes in election rules, absentee ballots and attempts to suppress the Black vote. We have developed a social media campaign using Facebook, our website and email to congregation members. We are creating a database system for ongoing communication and organizing.
- Voter Protection: Souls to the Polls has been a leading partner in state wide legal fights to protect voters.
- We were able to delay the voter purge in April but it is returning this summer.
- We fought to delay the election in April. That lawsuit was defeated but the Court agreed to extend time for accepting absentee ballots which meant over 113,000 extra votes were counted.
- We have led the fight in Milwaukee to make sure the voting apparatus is effective. We have won efforts to expand the number of voting sights, increase the time approved for early voting and secured
agreements to make absentee voting easier by providing voter assistance and ballot drop off sites in all 16 precincts, at local libraries.