Sunday voting rally attracts hundreds

Sunday voting rally attracts hundreds
October 30
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  Marchers depart from United Metropolitan on Sunday.)

They marched. They chanted and sang. They voted.

Souls to the Polls in Winston-Salem accomplished its mission Sunday. About 300 people left their home churches and zipped over to United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church. They picked out signs and banners to carry, and after getting a few directions from Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity President Willard Bass, they began the 10 minute trek down Third Street and up Chestnut Street.


Ricky Hairston holds a sign touting democracy.

The chants grew louder as they reached the Board of Elections in the Forsyth County Government Center. “This is what Democracy looks like,” they shouted.

Inside the building, their commitment to democracy – and their patience – would be tested: early voters waited in a line that snaked up a flight of stairs. Up to an hour was given as the estimated wait time.

The scene vexed Linda Sutton, the city representative for the grassroots voting rights group Democracy North Carolina. She worked with the Ministers Conference and several area churches to organize the march and had told local Board of Elections officials to expect a larger than normal crowd. A former chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections, Sutton said something could have been done to alleviate the long line.

“Something could have been set up in the lobby,” she argued.

Early voting in North Carolina looks a lot different from two years ago. Republican-led Boards of Elections around the state have slashed early voting schedules and sites. The one day of Sunday early voting – traditionally used for Souls to the Polls events – remained intact in Forsyth.

“We had to fight to get this Sunday. That’s why this is so important,” Sutton told the marchers before they began their walk.

Ricky Hairston’s voice was distinct among the sea of others. He chanted with purpose because he said he was headed to vote for his grandchildren.

“I’m 60 years old, but this is not about me. We need to look out for the next generation. I am concerned about these schools and education,” he said.

Members of Carolina Cruisers wait across from the Forsyth County Government Center.

Members of Carolina Cruisers wait across from the Forsyth County Government Center.

Joe Davis – one of the about 30 members of the Carolina Cruisers motorcycle club who rode ahead of the marchers – admitted that the names at the top of the ballot – U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and her Republican challenger Thom Tillis – were the only ones he’d heard of.

“That’s why I brought this,” he said, unfolding a piece of notepaper after taking it from his back pocket. “My wife gave me this. She reads everything. She said, ‘You can do what you want to do, but these are the people to vote for.’”

Several candidates took part in the march. They included School Board hopefuls Laura Elliott and Katherine Fansler, State Rep. Evelyn Terry and Josh Brannon, the Democrat running to unseat Virginia Foxx in the U.S. Fifth Congressional District.

In spite of reports that Democratic voters are apathetic this election year, Brannon said the voters he’s encountered throughout the counties that make up the Fifth District are raring for a change.

Josh Brannon among the crowd.

Josh Brannon among the crowd.

“I have seen a tremendous amount of energy, especially among people who are upset with what the General Assembly is doing,” said Brannon, who said he is running because inequality has become too rampant and outside money has made elected officials venal.

State Rep. Ed Hanes also marched. The Democrat is running unopposed but wanted to encourage voting.

“We have not been as aggressive as we should in the past with encouraging people to take part in non-presidential elections, but we are doing better at that,” he said.

His first term was one of the most contentious periods in recent memory in the General Assembly. Republicans took the Governor’s Mansion after already gaining control of the House and Senate. A litany of controversial bills followed – including the voter ID measure that will go into effect in 2016. A dramatic shift in the make-up of the General Assembly is not expected this year, but Hanes said there will be some good news on Election Day.

“I’m optimistic we are going to gain seats. Every seat gained is one more step toward getting us back to a level where we can have civil conversations about issues,” said Hanes, who said Democrats and Republicans did manage to find common ground on some issues during the last two years.

Additional early voting sites opened this week. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. today (Thursday, Oct. 30) and Friday (Oct. 31) at the Mazie Woodruff Center (4905 Lansing Drive), Clemmons Library (3554 Clemmons Rd.), Kernersville Senior Center (130 E. Mountain St.), Lewisville Library (6490 Shallowford Rd.), Sedge Garden Rec Center (401 Robbins Rd.), Old Town Rec Center (4550 Shattalon Drive), Walkertown Library (2969 Main St.), Polo Park Rec Center (1850 Polo Rd.) and South Fork Rec Center (4403 Country Club Road). The Board of Elections in the Forsyth County Government Center (201 N. Chestnut St.) will be open today and tomorrow from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. On the last day of early voting, Saturday, Nov. 1, only one site will be open – the Board of Elections – from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4. Those who have not voted by then, must vote at their assigned precinct. To find your precinct, go to or call 336-703-2800.

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T. Kevin Walker

T. Kevin Walker

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