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Black religious leaders ‘continue a legacy’ of getting out the vote ahead of primary

On the second day of early voting Sunday, Black religious leaders and community members gathered to rally voters in the community at a “Souls to the Polls” event outside the KROC Center polling place in Roxbury.

“We come today to encourage each and every person to get out to vote,” said Willie Bodrick, pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church, to a crowd of around 40 people. “There’s so many things that are on the ballot this year. So many opportunities that we have as a community to see the equity and the change that we need.”

The Souls to the Polls project is nonpartisan and does not endorse candidates, the speakers Sunday said. The project is organized by members of the 1619 Project, which encompasses over 50 Black and Brown-led organizations, and will be led by local Black religious leaders.

This is “one of the most dangerous times in American history,” Bodrick said, and every election and vote matters.

Poll workers on Saturday reported low turnout for the first day of early voting for the Sept. 6 primary election ahead of this year’s midterms. This, speakers said, makes rallying voters now all the more important.

This is the first year there has been mandatory weekend hours for early voting in all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. More information on voting hours and locations can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.

Saturday was the last day to register to vote for the Sept. 6 primary election, which includes the races for the governor, lieutenant governor, auditor and other offices.

Though Saturday’s early voting started slow, Secretary of State William Galvin’s office has reported 670,000 requests for absentee or mail-in ballots, which Galvin called a “phenomenal response.”

Religious leaders Sunday called community members to do everything they can to increase turnout.

“If you have to pick somebody up, pick them up. If you have to order an Uber for them, order that Uber for them. If you have to walk with them, walk with them,” said Art Gordon, pastor at the St. John Missionary Baptist Church. “Our lives depend on it.”

The pastors said faith communities have always played a key role in civic engagement, noting the churches actively work to educate voters as well as getting people to the polls.

The event marks the start of campaign leading into the November midterms. The next event isn’t yet certain, organizers said, as polling locations shift.

“I truly believe there’s a better future for Boston, when the people of this community get out and vote and vote in faith,” said Gordon.

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