Some pastors encourage voter registration on Easter - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Some pastors encourage voter registration on Easter

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

On Easter Sunday, churches welcome more visitors than almost any other day of the year.  So some pastors used the large crowds to spread an important message about voting.

It was a packed house at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Waterloo on Easter Sunday.  While there was a lot of singing and the pastor preached a traditional Easter sermon, there was another important message coming from the pulpit.

"There are over 500,000 African American churches in the United States, and over 5 million people in our churches are unregistered to vote," Rev. Frantz Whitfield of Mount Carmel Church said.

That's why Rev. Whitfield headed up the "empowerment movement" locally.  Nationwide, it's an effort to get one million African Americans registered to vote.  He says it's about changing the long-time perception in the black community that their opinions don't matter. 

"Their vote does count.  And we can't sit around complaining about what's going on in our community and our country if we're not getting out there to vote and get our voices heard," Whitfield said.

With the voter registration drive, Whitfield hopes local black churches will each get about 20 new voters signed up.  Ladon Burton is one of them.

"I'd registered once before, but I didn't vote.  And that's pretty bad, since people have died for us to have the vote," Burton said.

And the goal of the empowerment movement is not to persuade people how to vote, just simply to get them to the polls.

"We just want people to get registered to vote, whether they're Democrat or Republican or whether they're Independent, whatever it is.  We just want people to get out and vote.  That's our purpose," said Whitfield.

And with a presidential election this fall, along with a number of Congressional seats up for grabs, every vote will make a big difference in the country's leadership.

Across all populations nationwide, a study by American University finds about 73 percent of all adults are registered to vote. 

Mount Carmel Church in Waterloo will keep its doors open until 7 p.m. Sunday night to encourage people to complete voter registrations.

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