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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 9/21/16. Chantelle Roberson, left, and Wade Hinton brainstorm on ways to increase voter participation throughout the city while at the Camp House on Wednesday, September 21, 2016.
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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 9/21/16. Chantelle Roberson, left, and Wade Hinton brainstorm on ways to increase voter participation throughout the city while at the Camp House on Wednesday, September 21, 2016.

Voter registration rally

› Where: Olivet Baptist Church, 740 E. M.L. King Blvd.

› When: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today.

› More info: www.govotecha. weebly.com

› Upcoming rallies are scheduled Oct. 1 at Westside Baptist Church and Oct. 9 at Second Missionary Baptist Church.

 

Expressions of hopelessness and apathy within inner city communities have moved two local attorneys to organize a grassroots effort to register voters and get them to the polls.

Chantelle Roberson, associate general counsel at BlueCross BlueShield, said she had talked to young people who believed nobody cared about them and that their vote didn't matter.

She told the young voters that their vote was their voice.

"Voting allows people the opportunity to use their voice to speak in a way decision-makers understand," she said.

So she called City Attorney Wade Hinton one night in March, asking if he could help her increase voter participation.

Their collaboration resulted in #GoVoteCHA, an initiative that aims to make sure every Chattanoogan exercises their right to vote. The project targets voters in City Council districts 5, 7, 8 and 9, where voter turnout is traditionally low, Roberson said.

The effort officially launched this month with a voter registration website and voter rallies scheduled through mid-October. The goal is to make sure voters get to the polls for the presidential election in November.

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 11.

They will host a voter registration rally at Olivet Baptist Church from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today and another at Westside Baptist Church on Oct. 1.

"We need to look people in the eye and let them know that this is important, that you're important," Roberson said.

Voter turnout in the August election was at 15.61 percent, the lowest voter participation in more than two decades.

In August, 10,376 people were registered to vote in District 5. Only 2,006 voted, and that was the largest number of ballots cast in all four districts. Of the 9,182 people registered to vote in District 9 for the August election, 1,697 voted. Some 1,008 people voted in District 8 out of 6,685 registered voters. And out of 8294 registered voters in District 7, 1,098 people voted, according to the Hamilton County Election Commission.

Roberson and Hinton have already been at Orchard Knob and Greater Tucker baptist churches registering voters.

The duo also has worked with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke on a separate initiative to develop a website — RestoreMyRights.com — advising people with criminal records on how to get their voting rights restored.

NAACP officials say they support the attorneys' efforts and hope potential voters understand the importance of voting, not only in the presidential election, but in the upcoming local elections, too.

"We know that through gerrymandering, through redrawing boundary lines, we are in danger of losing seats on the City Council and the County Commission," said NAACP Secretary Eric Atkins.

He also said funds for education and job development also may be allocated by who is in office.

Orchard Knob Baptist Church Pastor the Rev. Carlos Williams also supports the initiative.

"We want to show how the person elected to preside over this country presides over your life and the decisions that they make impacts you personally, daily," Williams said.

Roberson and Hinton are also working with churches to provide voters with transportation to the polls in November.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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