Souls to the Polls 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.
The vision: a small group of churches working together to mobilize voters that would let their voices be heard in a community whose voices mattered! Souls to the Polls began operating as an organization with small donations from local unions, which allowed us to grow and make an impact.
Souls to the Polls- is commitment to educate, register and transport community residents to voting sites for future elections so that we can fulfill our vision of 100,000 Souls to the Polls. We have canvassed more than 3,400 homes, registers voters, uses media to reach people in the broader community to drive hundreds of people to polling sites on election day. This has increased Milwaukee voter turn-out in the city of Milwaukee.
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 kiosks so their congregations would have easy access to register to vote, women within the church community were trained to use donated I-pads to register voters. We were scheduling voter registration events within the churches when suddenly 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 their entire program, using phones and email for outreach purposes. Our organizing efforts moved to the world of Zoom! We expanded our virtual program to include requesting absentee ballots and registering voters.
Conservative state legislators are committed to suppressing the Milwaukee vote, especially in Black and Brown communities. The legal fight continues, pushing the City of Milwaukee to make sure there are enough voting sites, absentee ballots, ballot drop off opportunities and that the ballots are collected and counted on time.
Souls to the Polls works with groups across the state to defeat all legislature that hinders voters rights 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. Since April, Souls to the Polls canvassers reached over 700 voters and helped 285 people to register.
- Voter outreach and education: I and other 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.
We have been actively organizing to publicize major issues. In April, we organized an in-car protest over the voting conditions on April 7 and the conservative efforts to defy the Governor and open business in the state before COVID was under control.
On June 13, Souls to the Polls along with Soul of Solomon Missionary Church and the League of Progressive Seniors held an outdoor sit-in in support of Black Lives Matter calling on people in the community to make their voice heard at the ballot box as well as on the streets.
We are working extremely hard to knock down the challenges we face in the forthcoming November 3, election. The work continues to ensure that 100,000 Souls get to the Polls this year.