Black churches form alliance to energize Georgia voters in 2024 race

AME and CME churches unite to get out the vote
African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald T. Jackson speaks about joining with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in a voter turnout effort in Georgia for this year's presidential election. “When young folks see that the Black church also cares about what’s happening to them, you’ll see a response and a return of millennials and Gen Z,” Jackson said. Polls have shown Black voter support for President Joe Biden appears to be slipping since the 2020 presidential election, when 88% of Black voters favored the Democrat. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald T. Jackson speaks about joining with the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in a voter turnout effort in Georgia for this year's presidential election. “When young folks see that the Black church also cares about what’s happening to them, you’ll see a response and a return of millennials and Gen Z,” Jackson said. Polls have shown Black voter support for President Joe Biden appears to be slipping since the 2020 presidential election, when 88% of Black voters favored the Democrat. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Two Black religious denominations with a combined 140,000 Georgia parishioners joined forces Monday to counter what polls indicate is a lack of enthusiasm among African American voters.

The alliance between the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church creates a faith-based turnout effort among Black voters who usually support Democrats as President Joe Biden is seeking reelection.

Black churches need to take on a stronger leadership role as they did during civil rights and voting rights movements, said Bishop Reginald Jackson, who leads more than 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia.

“The Black church has got to correct itself and become more socially active,” said Jackson, who was surrounded by faith leaders inside the Georgia Capitol. “When young folks see that the Black church also cares about what’s happening to them, you’ll see a response and a return of millennials and Gen Z.”

The election-year engagement effort includes Sunday voter registration events, church town halls, training of faith leaders, voter guides and assistance for voters getting to the polls.

“We’re going to be struggling and fighting for voting rights,” said Bishop Thomas Brown Sr., who presides over 300 Christian Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia. “Combining our resources — human, financial and otherwise — will help us to help others across the state to realize that, yes, we can make a difference.”

Exit polls from the 2020 presidential election showed that about 88% of Black voters in Georgia supported Biden, but that high level of support might be slipping.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

About 59% of Black Georgia voters said last month that they’d support Biden and 20% would back Republican Donald Trump, according to a poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The remaining 21% of Black voters surveyed said they preferred a different candidate, don’t plan to vote for president, or didn’t know who they would support.

Outreach to Black voters will highlight why priorities such as police oversight and student loan forgiveness have fallen short while calling attention to successes, such as funding for historically Black colleges and low unemployment rates, Jackson said.

“The fact of the matter is ... there are not enough votes in the Congress,” Jackson said. “The only way you’re going to change that is to change the people who are making these decisions. You have to put people in office who represent your interests.”

This year’s effort by Black churches will be more organized than previous voter mobilizations, combining the resources of two major congregations under a unified election strategy. Black churches also worked together in previous elections in Georgia.

Conservative churches have also become more politically active, including rural voter turnout efforts after Sunday services.

“We stand with our A.M.E. and our C.M.E. bishops to get the vote out and to make sure that there’s no votes left behind so that we aren’t left behind,” said state Rep. Lydia Glaize, a Democrat from Fairburn.

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