‘No room for them’: For Mississippians in deep poverty, voting is easier said than done

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi TodayMatthew McLellan sits outside while reading his Bible near Stewpot Community Services in Jackson Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.
Congregating with others outside Stewpot’s community kitchen on an overcast, drizzly Thursday afternoon after grabbing some lunch, a bus driver reflected on the decline of his West Jackson surroundings.
The man, Tony Moore, said he’d rather try to make a difference in his community — give a hand up to folks living in poverty — than go to the polls on Election Day.
Chris Purdon and Jed Blackerby won’t vote because they can’t — they both say they are among the nearly 10 percent of voting-aged Mississippians permanently stripped of their right to vote due to a felony conviction.
Vivian Sims said she registered “just in case,” but she doubts she’ll cast a vote come November 6.
Mississippi Today spoke to a dozen people around Stewpot the day after the popular longtime civil rights activist the Rev. William Barber II visited Jackson as part of the Poor People’s Campaign’s “moral revival” aimed at engaging low-income Americans.
“Anybody that attempts to suppress your right to vote is actually trying to deny that you were made in the image of the Lord,” Barber told the crowd. “That’s why if we ever needed to vote we need to vote now. Because voting is a moral and religious responsibility.”
Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi TodayRev. William Barber II speaks during a Poor People’s Campaign event at Greater Mount Calvary Baptist Church Wednesday, Oct. 24 in Jackson.
Political engagement strongly correlates with a person’s economic status. The most financially secure Americans are three times more likely to vote than the least financially secure, according to the Pew Research Center based on data from the 2014 midterm election.
Illuminating this statistic is the fact that political candidates rarely speak on the issues facing people in deep