The Hamilton County Black Caucus is organizing to seek enough signatures to form a third political party here, a news release states.
"We're going to create a force in this city that is going to represent those who are voiceless," said local Nation of Islam leader Kevin Muhammad, who co-founded the caucus with Westside Baptist Church Pastor Timothy Careathers.
The group, which will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at Eastdale Village Community Church, needs 3,363 signatures to form a minor political party that would be recognized only in Hamilton County. The Black Caucus calls it the Justice Party.
Those signatures would represent about 2.5 percent of all votes that were cast in Hamilton County in the gubernatorial election in November 2018, the release states.
Some people get elected with less than 3,000 votes, Muhammad said. So if the Hamilton County Black Caucus can get 3,363 signatures, that could be enough people to get the party's own candidate in office.
The Democratic and Republican parties are the two major parties in the nation. Minor parties with less influence include the Libertarian Party and the Green Party.
Muhammad said signing the petition wouldn't mean the signer changes political parties, it would mean the signer agrees with the idea that a third political party is needed.
"Being a member of the Justice Party comes later in the process when we start dealing with the agenda of the party," he said in the release. "But for now you're saying you're in agreement that the current system we have is just not working for us and we need another alternative."
If the caucus gets the signatures, Muhammad said, supporters could put a candidate in office by the 2020 elections who would be more responsive to the needs of minorities and poor people who have been ignored and underrepresented.
Muhammad said the majority of Chattanooga and Hamilton County elections are won with only a small percentage of voters turning out, while most residents, black and white, stay home.
"They're not voting because they're not seeing proper representation," he said. "They've become apathetic because over years and years they've given up on the political system to change their reality. They want to hear a voice and a representation that they trust and believe in. Then they'll go to the polls."
The Rev. Charlotte Williams, pastor of Eastdale Village Community Church, hosted the Unity Group's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Eastdale Village Community Church in January.
"For 400 years, we have been expecting different results," Williams said at that event. "We've been claiming that we are a part of the Republican Party or part of the Democratic Party and not realizing we weren't even invited to the party. We have not had the access or the same reality as other people."
Of 206,495 registered voters in Hamilton County, only 134,494 voted in the November 2018 gubernatorial elections, Muhammad said.
"We're not happy under this form of government," he said. "We're not safe under it so we're going to establish our own political party. We're going to establish our own political party and run our own candidates who are willing to fight for us as a people."