By Donald Hunt
PHILADELPHIA — Members of the Black clergy are encouraging voters to stay safe at home on primary election day and vote by mail.
“Each and every election is critical and certainly this presidential election year will be very important,” said the Rev. Robert Collier, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, in a written statement. “There’s no time for any registered voter to sit on the sidelines and talk about ‘what could have been.’ Now is the time for action. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Clergy members are encouraging all our members and non-members, as well, to vote by mail and keep yourself healthy.”
This is the first year Pennsylvanians can vote by mail. The change is part of Act 77, a package of voting reforms Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law in October. The law also gives people more time to register to vote, and gives voters more time to submit their absentee or mail-in ballots.
“This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time, under the circumstances of today, living with a pandemic swirling around us,” Collier said.
As of April 16, only about 3% of the city’s 1 million registered voters had applications for mail-in ballots approved, Commissioner Omar Sabir told The Tribune recently.
“We just analyzed the data and we are starting to see it’s a big divide. We saw a low [number] of applicants from Black wards and a significant amount from white wards,” Sabir said.
He and other officials are worried that Black folks aren’t getting the message that they can vote by mail, and they are trying to make a special point of reaching out to the Black community.