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April , 2018
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By Chinta Strausberg

With the goal of signing up a minimum of 100 churches in Chicago, a faith based coalition held a press conference Wednesday at the historic Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, 2401 So. Wabash, to kick off their Souls to the Polls Early Vote campaign.

Led by the Community Renewal Society, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) and SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, the coalition is hoping to sign up churches, seniors and working families for the Early Vote program which begins Monday, February 9th through Saturday, February 21st.

The spokesperson for the coalition, Rev. Marilyn Pagan-Banks, made it clear that they are not endorsing any Chicago mayoral candidates she is hoping that African American voters and working families seize the opportunity to vote early in this year’s municipal election.

And, the timing for the Souls to the Polls campaign coincides with the beginning of Black History Month where Pagan-Banks, who is executive director of the HR Harvest and an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, said, faith leaders agree one of the ways to guarantee that black communities and concerns are addressed is if African Americans get out to the polls and vote.

Pagan-Banks was joined by Father Larry Dowling, Sr., Agatha Church and Community Renewal Society (CRS), who talked about the need of living wages, quality education for all children and ending mass incarceration including a comprehensive restorative justice plan, Rev. Revin Fellows from Grace memorial Baptist who talked about equal education, safe passage to schools and anti-violence programs, Rev. Cy Fields, New Landmark and RS who spoke on the need of a restorative justice plan, Rev. Booker Vance, SOUL, president emeritus who spoke on what this election could mean for ending mass incarceration and police brutality in the community.

The faith-based coalition is pushing Chicago’s early voting program that kicks off Monday, February 9th through February 21st including the opening of all 51 Early Voting sites Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with five regional sites opened on Sundays.

Under the Early Voting program, if you are registered to vote in Chicago, you can use any site in the city no matter where you live; however, once you have voted in the Early Voting program, you may not change your vote and you are not allowed to vote twice. Voters must have a government photo ID to vote.

“We need to get Souls to the Polls. We need to get our folks out voting early, and we need to help them to do. All of us are committed to having folks go out Sunday, February 15th after our services. We will put folks in vans, rent buses if we have to,” said Pagan-Banks. “We are encouraging people to exercise their right to vote. Of course those who don’t vote early, we want them to vote as well but this big push will make sure that nothing stands in their way.”

“As we have heard today, early voting in the black community has never been more important with so many vital issues and crises facing the future of Chicago such as the urgency to create good jobs with living wages in all neighborhoods, guaranteeing quality education for all children, reducing gun violence, ending mass incarceration for people of color and embracing a comprehensive restorative justice plan for those with criminal records,” she stated.

Saying all of these issues are important, Pagan-Banks added, “All of them deserve to be addressed. We believe one of the ways to help fix them is by exercising our right to vote early. Join us on Sunday, February 15th for Souls to the Polls. Get out the vote and vote early.”

For further information on Chicago’s Early Voting program, please click on this link: http://www.chicagoelections.com/en/early-voting.html.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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