Churches bring members to vote early

This year's 'Souls to the Polls' started a week early

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Churches energized their congregations to get out and vote Sunday. The movement is traditionally known as "Souls to the Polls." This year the religious community had to bus people to the polls a week early because Florida's new election law eliminated voting the Sunday before election day.

Church vans delivered voters from their worship place to their polling place. By Sunday afternoon, a line had formed outside the entrance to the Gateway Mall voting site. Gwendolyn Smith cast her ballot for the first time.

"What did your pastor tell you in church about voting?" asked Channel 4's Jason law.

"Just do whatever the best that you feel. Just vote. Vote just to vote. Whatever you feel comfortable with, you go ahead and vote," Smith said.

This election is different. The Florida legislature eliminated early voting the Sunday before election day. So this year churches mobilized their congregations nine days early, instead of two.

"We wish we had the days to give us a little bit more time to help get those who don't have transportation backwards and forwards to the polls, but we've got to work with what they all give us to work with," said Pastor Robert LeCount of Disciples of Christ Church.

LeCount said "Souls to the Polls" is an important tradition.

"I let them know that it was a day we were taking souls to the polls. It's a good opportunity for you and your children to go and vote together, to show your kids how to vote and the process of voting," said LeCount.

"Oh, it's very important, making sure your vote counts and that your choice counts in whatever you believe in," said voter Andrea Evans.

Early voting continues through Saturday in all Florida counties. In Duval County, the polls are open 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

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