Faith leaders make one last push to get out the vote
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By Zoe Seiler, contributor
Atlanta, GA – Faith leaders from the metro Atlanta area held a virtual Zoom press conference with the Democratic Party of Georgia on Jan. 4, to encourage voters one more time to get to the polls today for the runoff elections.
Election Day is today, Jan. 5. Polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. To look up your poling location, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter Page by clicking here.
In November, Georgia narrowly flipped blue for the first time since 1992 and Democrats are aiming to keep up the momentum in the runoff elections. Both U.S. Senate seats and a seat on the state’s Public Service Commission are on the ballot today.
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“It has been an incredibly intense time here in Georgia,” said Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Congregation Bet Haverim. “And it’s remarkable to think that in spite of a pandemic we have made history, and that we can have pride in proclaiming that over 3 million voters from all across the state have already come out to make their voice heard in this election. I think that’s a testament to why this election is so incredibly important.”
Democrats across the state have rallied over the past two months to maintain the support and energy, and the religious leaders joined in on the conversation to mobilize people of faith to get their souls to the polls.
“We stand on the cusp of being able to create some significant movement toward change in this country,” the Rev. Hodari Williams said.
Williams, the spiritual advisor at New Life Presbyterian Church, along with the other clergy members emphasized the importance of voting in this election and discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Life has been anything but normal for faith communities as they’ve had to shift to online worship services and adopt safety protocols for meeting in person. Clergy members have had to do things in their ministry they never thought they would do.
For example, Williams has been caring for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 who can’t mourn like they normally could, and feeding people who now find themselves on the edge of poverty.
Lesser voiced that many have suffered during the pandemic. He noted that Georgia was one of the first states to open after the shelter-in-place order and said that was not done in a thoughtful way.
“It has created both a sense of chaos, as well as a greater sense of suffering than has been needed,” Lesser said.
The Rev. J. Ricardo Smith, senior pastor at Browns Chapel Baptist Church, has lost family members to the coronavirus.
“It is all the result, unfortunately, of an administration and folks who are in leadership not taking serious[ly] what we as the citizens of the United States have been experiencing,” Williams said.
“We still have work to do in 2021 to make sure that we secure leadership that’s going to drive and move this country in a direction where we can get to a place of healing and wholeness,” he said.
Williams, Lesser, Smith and the Rev. Jennifer Maxell, program curator at The Ministry Collaborative, encouraged voters to make a plan for election day to cast their ballots for Ossoff and Warnock.
“Georgians from across different faiths know that we currently have two senators who have lacked the moral integrity and the vision to do what is right on behalf of Georgians,” Lesser said.
The steps in the voting plan include casting a ballot either in person or putting absentee ballots in a drop box, making sure people know their polling place and encouraging others to vote.
“As people of faith it is our responsibility to lead the way in putting our country on a path towards righteousness and a path towards hope,” Smith said.
Incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have been accused of profiting off of the pandemic due to stock trading allegations and Lesser said they are too busy worrying about their own gains.
Throughout the year, Loeffler and Perdue have downplayed the severity of COVID-19, blocked economic aid and stood by Trump as he challenges the election results, Maxell added.
“We as faith leaders understand the urgency of this moment,” Lesser said. “These are life and death issues — the need for healthcare, the need for stimulus, the need for [a] living wage, and compassionate immigration policy, a place where religious freedom is about establishing a Georgia that celebrates all faiths.”
All echoed the sentiments of gifting President-elect Joe Biden with a Democratic Congress, a legislature he can work with, by electing Ossoff and Warnock.
“It’s a new year and I don’t know about you but I am ready for a new Senate,” Maxell said.
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“[On Jan. 5] I am confident that Georgians of every faith will hold these failed senators accountable by voting them out of office,” Maxell said. “But doing it will require each and every one of us to turn out like our lives depend on it, because our lives, in fact do depend on it.”
According to Smith, people of faith played a large role in electing Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in November and added that those same voters “will play a crucial role again in electing two new U.S. senators” today.
“The soul of this country needs rebuilding after four years of a Trump leadership,” Smith said. “Our work is not complete, and we have to give them [Biden and Harris] two partners in the Senate [on Jan. 5], or else they won’t be able to get much done.”
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