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Faith leaders call on state to protect voters and votes

By Shelia Poole, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(CNT) City News And Talk #atlanta-ga

Faith leaders from metro will hold a press conference today calling on the state to protect the voting process through the Nov. 3 election.

Already, said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, presiding prelate of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Sixth Episcopal District, his office has received numerous calls from voters of long lines or being told they’re at the wrong polling place. He also said he’s worried about possible intimidation from others during voting, particularly on Election Day.

Jackson will join other faith leaders to discuss their concerns at a press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Big Bethel AME Church on Auburn Avenue.

At the same time, he is urging African American voters who have not yet voted to do so by Oct. 30, when early voting ends in Georgia. The goal, he said, is to encourage 75% of Black voters in Georgia to cast ballots by then.

Some people have waited in line for hours to vote. Others have had relatively short wait times.

“Nobody has the right to question whether you are legally registered to vote,” said Jackson. “If you’re in line and anyone (an outsider) comes to question you, either say nothing or tell them where to go and don’t make no turns.”

He said those who think they have been a victim of voter intimidation should contact various groups who will be monitoring the election.

Abdullah Jaber, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the group is encouraging mosques to increase security and be on the lookout for efforts to intimidate voters.

“There’s a very tangible level of concern in our community about voter suppression, intimidation tactics, harassment and even targeted violence,” he said. “We’re trying not to raise a lot of panic, because that’s the goal of extremist groups. That’s what they want to see.”

The Rev. Cynthia L. Hale, senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, is among ministers who are participating in the “Lawyers and Collars Program,” which is recruiting congregants who are lawyers to be prepared to help voters who are experiencing issues at the polls on Election Day.

Billy Michael Honor , who directs the New Georgia Project’s faith initiative called “Loose the Chains,” is expanding the role of the poll chaplain initiative. On Nov. 3, the goal is to have roughly 200 volunteers from various faith traditions to go to the polls to not only pass out snacks and provide comfort, as they have done in the past, but to also fill the traditional role of poll monitors and to defuse tense situations, if necessary.