A Black Pastor’s Zoom Campaign to Save Pennsylvania for Biden

He retooled his Righteous Warrior page on Facebook, which he originally set up for his side business as an executive coach and a book he wrote on “moral manhood,” to focus on voting issues. There, since October 5, Waller has recorded daily “30 days to the polls” prayer videos that compare attributes of God with political themes. They attract 3,000 to 5,000 views each.

In the October 10 video, Waller, sitting in his basement and wearing a LeBron James T-shirt and a “Make Hate Wrong Again” ballcap, read six verses from the Psalms describing God as a defender of the afflicted, the fatherless and the oppressed. “How can we be defenders and particularly in this political time?” he asks. He tells his viewers they’re defending against hate, injustice, “the takeover of the Supreme Court,” and “turning our democracy and our democratic institutions into a Russian oligarchy.”

Then, as always, he encourages his viewers to vote. “The same way God is a defender for you, you need to view yourself as a defender of your community and of this land.” The video racks up 3,800 views and 162 comments: “Defend our democracy,” “Mailed in that ballot,” “I voted yesterday—praise God!”

Enon hosted two drive-through voter sign-up days in September, when people, socially distanced in their cars, could register to vote, apply for a mail-in ballot and volunteer as poll workers.

On November 3, for the first time, Enon’s two church properties will become voting locations, replacements for former sites that are too small to allow for social distancing. To keep the site neutral, Waller said, voting will be the only activity at the church that day other than food trucks paid for by the get-out-the-vote fund Black Voters Matter. “This year, our efforts needed to stand up the system, because the system itself is threatened,” Waller said.

Efforts like Waller’s have contributed to a surge of interest in voting across Philadelphia. The city’s voter registration is at a 35-year high, at 1.1 million voters, more than 90 percent of those eligible. In June, the number of polling places in Philly shrank from 831 a year ago to only 190, mostly because older poll workers declined to work during the pandemic. This November, thanks to poll-worker recruitment drives like Enon’s, Philadelphia will have 718 polling locations and a nearly full contingent of 8,200 poll workers, chosen from 20,000 who offered to work. “There was an outpouring of volunteerism,” said Pat Christmas, policy director for the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan good-government group in Philadelphia. Thanks to Pennsylvania’s 2019 law allowing all residents to vote by mail, 429,000 Philadelphians requested mail-in ballots by the October 27 deadline, and 266,000 have already returned them.

Yet mail-in ballots are much more prone to disqualification than votes cast in person. In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that so-called “naked…


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