Group of ministers working to make Election Day safe

By Rob Manch - Reporter
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LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) - A coalition of more than 50 churches in the greater Lynchburg area are coming together to make sure people get to the polls, and can safely cast their votes on November 8th.

Members say the group formed after rumors spread about the potential for voter intimidation.

Pastor Dr. James Coleman says several people have come to him, concerned that threatening messages, or even weapons may be legally displayed near polling places in an effort to intimidate voters.

So he's chosen Halloween night to dispel any fear people might have of going to the polls.

It's going to be his mission to organize more than 50 volunteers this week just in Lynchburg alone to help drive people to the polls, and report any intimidating behavior.

Coleman says when he first heard about the possibility of voter intimidation, he and several other church leaders quickly responded, forming the Coalition of Concerned Ministers.

"We worked too hard to get the right to vote and now we must persevere and remember those who had to go through far worse to go to the polls and vote," said Coleman.

Coleman says that group already has an idea what it will be looking out for on November 8th.

"We've been hearing of the possibilities of people within their second amendment rights and other statutes that would allow them to do so to actually maybe even have weapons that are properly licensed in the view of voters," said Coleman.

Lynchburg Electoral Board Chair, Patricia Bower, says as long as it's far enough away from the polls, such behavior isn't illegal.

"Outside that 40 foot line, the Electoral Board and the Registrar have no jurisdiction," said Bower.

But Bower says voters can report any behavior they find intimidating, and the Electoral Board will respond.

That's exactly what volunteer Elvin Morno plans to do for his fellow college students at the Virginia University of Lynchburg.

"Letting them know that they will be safe and that their vote do matter," said Morno.

Morno will even be one of those helping get people to and from their polling locations.

"I actually have my own vehicle and I'm willing to transport some of the students myself," said Morno.

Coleman says, with only a week until Election Day, he wants to make sure every eligible voter feels safe doing their civic duty.

"On Halloween Day, we want to let you know, no reason to be scared, we got it, go vote," said Coleman.

Coleman says the Coalition will offer rides to voters throughout the greater Lynchburg area on Election Day, and they'll even come right to your door.

To request free transportation that day, you can call (434) 874-7776.

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