PA Black Votes Matter to host first-ever early in-person voting event in Allegheny County | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

PA Black Votes Matter to host first-ever early in-person voting event in Allegheny County

This election year has been fraught with voting issues, from the confusing logistics of mail-in ballots during the pandemic, to worries about voter intimidation. To help inspire confidence in the process and get people to the polls, the PA Black Votes Matter coalition is making history with a two-day festival in Homewood.

The festival – taking place from Sat, Oct. 10-Sun., Oct. 11 at the CCAC Homewood-Brushton Center – is intended to mark the first-ever early in-person voting event in Allegheny County.

PA Black Votes Matter, a newly formed coalition of Black organizations in Western Pennsylvania that focuses on electoral activities and voter turnout, also created the event to encourage turnout among Black voters. The latter is especially important as research has shown that, compared to white voters, Black Americans often experience obstacles to voting, including limited access to polling stations, and being disproportionately targeted by voter purges and restrictive voter ID laws.

However, State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Hill District) believes that this year, Black voters have better options due to the increased availability of mail-in ballots and early voting.

“Showing up this weekend is the same as turning out on election day,” says Wheatley in a press release. “Our mission is simple: No matter how you decide to vote, just vote. You have more choices than ever, and that is something for Black voters especially to celebrate, because for too long the system has worked against us. All of that has changed now.”
The weekend festival will help educate Black voters on how they can vote in-person with early voting at county courthouses and at official remote voting locations being set up in Allegheny County, especially in Pittsburgh neighborhoods with large Black populations, like Homewood. The festival location, CCAC Homewood-Brushton Center, is among the county’s new satellite election offices, where people can register to vote, apply for mail-in ballots, fill them out, and return them on site.

There will also be food trucks, vendors, live music, and appearances by local leaders. On Sunday, the Coalition will host a morning gospel jam session followed by a tailgating party for the Steelers vs. Eagles game, which will be live-streamed on North Homewood Avenue between Bennett and Kelly Street.

The festival will provide one last big push before Mon., Oct. 19, the last day eligible voters may register for the 2020 General Election.

But the focus extends beyond Allegheny County, as the dozens of organizations in PA Black Votes Matter have coordinated efforts to drive record turnout among Black voters in Beaver, Erie, Fayette, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington, and Westmoreland counties.

“It’s no longer simply election day when voters have just one chance to cast their ballot,” said DeWitt Walton, program director for the A. Philip Randolph Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based Black trade union organization that has served as a driving force behind PA Black Votes Matter. “It’s now election season, and voters have plenty of opportunities to have their voices heard – so long as they take advantage of the opportunities open to them.”

The PA Black Votes Matter Festival runs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat., Oct. 10 and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. CCAC Homewood-Brushton Center. 701 N. Homewood Ave., Homewood. Free.

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