JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Faith leaders from across Florida held a virtual press conference Friday to discuss concerns about voter intimidation tactics and violence as voters make their way to the polls.
“We will not be deterred. We will not be moved. Come with all that you have, and we’re still coming to the polls,” said Pastor Marcus McCoy with Greater Refuge Memorial Church in Orlando.
Faith leaders called on supervisors of elections throughout Florida to demand that all votes get to exercise their right to vote and are safe while doing so.
“We want to make sure that all the sites are safe in the state of Florida so that we may vote,” said Pastor Tracy Stallworth with Kingdom Glory Worship Assembly in Quincy.
The pastors told News4JAX that aside from their concerns about potential violence is the unforgettable history of disenfranchisement of Black voters.
“People of color communities have experienced so much disenfranchisement with SB90, HB1, and all of these different legislative bills that have come down the last couple of legislative sessions,” said Od’Juan Whitfield, Florida associate manager for faith in public life. “We’re people of faith, but at the same time, we live in this world that chooses to decide how much we can participate in this democracy based on our color.”
According to the state of Florida’s Division of Elections, overall there are 14.5 million voters in Florida and roughly 1.9 million of them are Black.
Although the leaders have been monitoring issues that they said haven’t occurred in their own communities, preventative measures are necessary.
“Some issues were people standing outside of the sites with incorrect signage diverting people to other places. Some others were flags that represent a particular political stance while other Black voters were coming in saying things, and we just don’t want to see it here,” McCoy said.
The pastors said by placing their own polling monitors at voting sites is one way to make sure voters’ ballots are counted.
They also said each faith leader has gone through extensive training in de-escalation tactics to ensure if anything happens, they are prepared to respond.