PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There are four days left before the primaries in Pennsylvania, and the key demographic candidates that are being sought across the Commonwealth are black voters. KDKA and our CBS3 affiliate station in Philadelphia worked together to learn about the most important issues that will determine their voting, and the efforts being made to bring them to the polls.
As African Americans in Pittsburgh go to the polls next Tuesday, there is no more pressing issue than gun violence.
“This is number one,” said Robert Perry, a Vietnam veteran and voter. “You know, violence is something you will never stop,” he added.
“I don’t think they really care that black people are killing each other,” Lei Engram said, waiting at the bus stop. “I don’t really think they do.”
As of May 13, there were 44 homicides in Alegen County in 2022. One that recently caught a lot of attention happened on Easter Sunday morning at Airbnb on the north side. Pittsburgh police estimate about 200 people were at a rental property party when the shots were fired. Matthew Steffi-Ross and Jaden Brown, both 17, were killed. On Tuesday, the primary election takes place exactly one month after the shooting. There were no arrests.
“Yes, I was there,” said Engram, who described the experience as traumatic. She said: “I don’t like being on the street anymore because I feel like I’m not safe, you know.”
“Many people feel powerless. Many believe that voting does not matter,” said Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment (B-PEP) project. The organization was created to force black Pittsburgh residents to always go to the polls when elections take place.
“There are no elections. Every election should be an election,” Stevens said.
Voter turnout is usually higher during general elections, for example, when voters elected Ed Ganey the first black mayor of Pittsburgh last November. He noted that residents want to live in a safe environment.
“Security comes first, and that is what we will work on,” he said on election night.
Six months later, this is the first problem for several black voters polled by the KDKA. But some wonder if their elected officials are hearing them.
“If we’re going to vote for you, then at least do something for us, you know. At least be responsible,” said Wendel Moon Jr., another local voter.
Stevens said voting rights are being challenged in many parts of the country. He said it makes voting critical, especially for African Americans.
“If you don’t vote, guess who decides for you? It won’t be you,” Stevens said.
“All elections are important,” said Pastor Robert Collier of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia, “but these elections are important for all people, especially left and left advocates.”
Leaders of local black churches in the Philadelphia region are urging voters, especially those in low-income communities, not to wait until November to head to the polls.
Equally important are Tuesday’s primary election.
“Don’t sit back, talk about what could have been done, what needed to be done,” said Dr. Wayne Weathers of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia.
“This is a major election. The concern is that people will be apathetic,” said Pastor Clarence Wright of the Philadelphia Black Clergy.
Wright is the pastor of Love Sion Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. Due to issues such as abortion, the economy and health care costs, the main concerns for voters, they say voting is one way to help bring about change.
“There’s still a process, and that process is voting,” Wright said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a large number of black voters went to the polls in the 2020 presidential election: 72% of blacks eligible to vote in Pennsylvania were registered, and nearly 71% of them voted.
But with less advertising in the middle years, the turnout in the primaries is usually much lower.
“If you look at the Philadelphia and Commonwealth numbers, they’re bleak,” said Philadelphia City League president Andrea Castis.
On the eve of Election Day, the Philadelphia City League is urging voters to do their homework and know where candidates stand on issues important to them.
“Make sure you understand where these legislators are, where these politicians are, where these candidates are on this issue,” Kustis said.
Community leaders say the key to the primaries and the November midterm elections will be to register people to vote, inform people about problems and get people involved in polling stations on election day.