Editor's Note: Story has been edited to update Hagan video.
Oct. 26 was the only day Sunday voting was allowed under the changed North Carolina voting laws. A group of organizations tried to make the most of that with a “Souls to the Polls” rally Sunday afternoon.
During the nonpartisan march, a group of about 100 made the nearly one-mile walk from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens to the Chavis Heights Community Center to cast their vote along with many others. Candidates, including incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, greeted voters.
“There’s been too many that died, too many that shed blood, too many that were hung, too many that were beaten and broken down for us to stay home and be lazy,” said Portia Rochelle, president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP chapter, which co-sponsored the event.
“Souls to the Polls” co-organizer Grady Bussey said the first such rally was held during the 2008 presidential election.
“The 100 people that you’re looking at, there’s the objective for everyone to get 10 people (to vote early),” Bussey said.
From a podium at the Chavis baseball field, Hagan told about 200 people she supports an increased federal minimum wage, more education funding, equal pay for women and Medicaid expansion. Afterward, she called the state’s voter-restriction laws unfair, saying her opponent, House Speaker Thom Tillis, is behind them.
“There is no reason, in 2014, to create these barriers,” Hagan said.
Tillis’s campaign responded: “While Thom led the way in passing North Carolina’s commonsense voter ID law, Hagan opposes it, and she is so out of touch that she even sent a letter to the Obama administration asking them to sue the state to block voter ID.”
Protesters from the immigration group Dream Action Coalition protested some of Hagan’s policies, and two jumped onstage uninvited.
“I’ve supported common-sense bipartisan immigration reform,” Hagan said. Hagan’s communications director, Sadie Weiner, said Hagan initially voted against the Dream Act because she thinks immigration should have comprehensive solutions.
At “Souls to the Polls,” marchers socialized and danced to background music as they lined up. Many took pictures with the garden’s statue of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Some parents brought their children. Kandace Moore, 13, of Cary, said she was happy to be there, even though she’s not old enough to vote.
“Our ancestors fought for a reason,” she said,
As of Sunday, about 284,940 votes had been cast, the state elections board said. About 49 percent of those voters were Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, 20 percent unaffiliated and .2 percent Libertarian. Voting started 23 compared to Oct. 18 last year. At Chavis on Sunday, 727 people voted, according to the Wake County elections board.