Souls to Polls Tries to Drive African-American Voting in Cleveland

Oct 30, 2016

On the first of two Sundays of early in-person voting, Cleveland churches encouraged African-American voters to cast ballots.
Credit RICK SENFTEN / WKSU

About 500 people converged at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections today, the first of two Sundays of early voting in Ohio. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on this year’s “souls to the polls,” the effort to turn out African-American voters, and how it compares to the years when Barack Obama’s name was on the ballot.

About 200 people organized by the Greater Cleveland Congregations gathered at Trinity cathedral downtown. The Rev. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, told the crowd this election isn’t about who people vote for, but what they vote for.

"We are voting for our children and our children’s children’s children." 

And as the group prepared to march about 10 blocks to the board of elections -- where they were joined by hundreds more predominantly African-American voters -- Colvin acknowledged issues crucial to the his community – including jobs, education and criminal justice reform – have been largely missing from this presidential campaign.

Early voting hours this week are from 8-7 weekdays, 8-4 next Saturday and 1-5 next Sunday.

“It’s really unfortunate that, while millions of people have been watching the debate and millions of people have been listening to the newscasts, we have really reduced what should be a discussion and a discourse about democracy to really a circus show.” 

He also acknowledged African-American voters may be less energized without President Obama on the ballot.

“We have to remind ourselves that people marched with Dr. King, not for Dr. King. And while people voted for President Obama, they were voting in their best interests -- and even as he goes into the sunset of his administration, the interests have not changed.” 

Outside the board of elections, vans with bullhorns circled the building broadcasting get-out-the-vote messages – competing with the gospel choir across the street. Local candidates passed out flyers. And a campaign bus featuring images of Hillary Clinton and Obama announced America can do better than Donald Trump.

Credit RICK SENFTEN / WKSU

“My daughter got me here," said Samera Hollimon, carrying her 3-year-old daughter Mianna Thomas. "I want her to be able to live in this world and not be judged by the color of her skin … to have equal opportunities as everybody else." 

She says she had no question in 2008 and 2012 who the better candidate was: Barack Obama. This year, she’s more skeptical. So she asks her daughter.

“Who you voting for?" she asks.

"Hillary."

"Why are you voting for Hillary."

The girl smiles: "Because I like her."

So far, Ohio has seen less early voting than four years ago, before Republican state lawmakers eliminated the week when people could register and vote at the same time.