CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On Election Day 2020, a group called Lawyers and Collars sent ministers to polls in Mecklenburg County and around the country to keep an eye on things.
They were called Poll Chaplains, and the assignment was to team lawyers and preachers up to report possible issues and to help keep the peace at the polls.
“Unfortunately emotions are high and feelings are intense,” Poll Chaplain Bishop Claude Alexander, Jr. said. “And some will be disruptors but to be a calming presence in the midst - is an opportunity to witness to who we are and serve the community.”
Alexander is pastor of The Park Church in Mecklenburg County. He is also a state leader with Lawyers and Collars and believes voters seeing ministers in collars at the polls will make a difference.
“Our presence here is no different than it would be in the sanctuary with our hands lifted,” he said. “We are glorifying God by fulfilling our citizenship obligations and helping others to do the same.”
Alexander says there were more than 30 Poll Chaplains stationed throughout Mecklenburg County. Alexander says there were Poll Chaplains also checking out polls in Greensboro, Raleigh, Winston Salem, and Durham. So far Poll Chaplains said there were no incidents to report.
While ministers were keeping an eye on the polls, Johnson C. Smith University students were at the polls encouraging voters and getting their classmates to go to the polls. JCSU classes are virtual but that didn’t stop the school from contacting the young student voters.
“They are sending out newsletters to students,” JCSU Freshman Brandy Barron said. “They are making sure that we are involved in our community.”
Barron encouraged students to vote in between their class schedules. She believes students hearing other students telling their peers to vote - makes a difference.
“It’s like ok - it’s not that hard,” Barron said. “If they can do it - I can do it as well.”
The 18-year-old freshman says voting is life-changing. She voted for the first time this election.
“I felt like empowered,” she said. “I feel like I’m legal now and it’s my civil right that my parents and grandparents fought for. It was great. It was humbling.”
JCSU students, staff, and graduates showed up at the precinct the college students would have voted if classes were held on campus. Charlotte City Councilman Malcolm Graham is a graduate of JCSU. He says voters should not be just engaged with the Presidential election.
“It is also important the Governor,” Graham said. “US Senate and down-ballot races and $250 million bonds on the ballot - transportation, affordable housing, and street bonds.”
After election day is over, Alexander says the work of Poll Chaplains continues.
“Advocacy for righteousness and justice,” Alexander said. “Equipping members to be politically engaged and to be aware of issues that affect them.”
Lawyers and Collars is a national program that has been around for about two years. Also before ministers could be a poll chaplain, they had to have training.