Local interfaith group Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild (POWER) wants to make sure voters get out to the polls for Pennsylvania's upcoming primary and gubernatorial elections.
POWER recently launched a campaign to get more than 5,000 voters to the polls in May and November.
Several of POWER's 41 Muslim, Jewish, and Christian member congregations recently participated in a "Voter Sabbath" event, during which clergy leaders delivered sermons about the importance of voting. The group also stationed several of its member congregation leaders at locations throughout the city where they asked people to fill out voter commitment cards.
Reverend Greg Holston is pastor of the New Vision United Methodist Church in the Logan section of the city. His church participated in the "Voter Sabbath" event and is one of POWER's member congregations.
Holston said the event and POWER's continued voter outreach will be critical to getting people to vote in this year's elections.
"It was a great day where people of faith came together to discuss the issues that face our city and affect the people we are ministering to. We’re confident that the people are concerned about these issues. If we can just give them confidence that these local elections matter, I believe they will show up and vote," Holston said.
The "Voter Sabbath" event reeled in some 1,200 voter commitment cards. In addition, roughly 20 new volunteers signed up to help with the group's larger voter outreach campaign.
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Executive Director of POWER, Bishop Dwayne Royster said the group hopes to reach 45,000 potential voters by the May 20th election, and 100,000 by Nov. 4.
For the next eight weeks, POWER volunteers and members will be participating in campaign-styled phone banking sessions, additional "Voter Sabbath" days, and door-to-door outreach.
POWER is also asking voters to support a fair funding formula for Philadelphia's school districts and a minimum wage ballot question in the primary election, which if approved, would enforce a minimum wage of $10.88 per hour for employees that are subcontracted to work for the city.
Whether the group's efforts will translate into more voters at the polls remains to be seen, but Holston and Royster say they are optimistic.
"It's going to be a challenge, but people of faith--which we are--we always believe that things can happen if we put our trust in God and do our work with our hands. We’ll continue to raise these issues every way we can to get the word out that every election is important," Holston said.
"We believe that it's going to make a big difference and we think it’s a powerful statement that people of faith are coming together to talk about these issues because these are not just civil issues, they're moral issues," Royster said. "I believe it's going to translate in a very large way."
POWER congregations will be doing phone bank shifts this Sunday at Mother Bethel AME Church at 6th & Lombard St., as well as on some weekday evenings in different locations across the city. For more information about POWER's voter outreach campaign visit www.powerphiladelphia.org.