When the Rev. Charles H. Ellis III asked his congregation what time is it, they yelled back “it’s voting time.”

On Sunday afternoon after church service, Ellis and about 35 members of Greater Grace Temple on 7 Mile marched around the surrounding neighborhood to encourage residents to vote. 

In partnership with the national, nonpartisan organization Walk the Vote Greater Grace churchgoers urged people to hit the polls on Election Day. 

“I was young when the civil rights movement was going on in the 60’s …  and to think that we could even be near that place right now with the suppression of voting. Who doesn’t want people to vote? (Voting) is what America is built on,” said Ellis.

Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, center, of Greater Grace Temple, and Ray Washington, left, deputy chief, Wayne County Sheriff, and director of Security at GGT, walk through a Detroit neighborhood to recruit voters during a Walk The Vote event Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020.

During Detroit’s first snowfall of the season, Ellis directed the voting parade toward crowded areas so more people could hear the message. 

The group walked from Telegraph Road and 7 Mile to Telegraph and Grand River Avenue. Frequent stops were made at liquor stores, gas stations, grocery stores and strip malls as the churchgoers held campaign signs in front of the stores’ windows. 

The group yelled chants such as “we pray and vote” and  stood on the island at the intersection of 7 Mile and Grand River for about 10 minutes to showcase voting signs. 

“It’s one of the most important things you can ever do as a citizen,” said Darryl Woods, 58, who voted during this election for the first time ever after being incarcerated for 28 years.

“We need to do something as a state and as a nation that makes sure that everyone in county jails have an opportunity to vote as well as look into getting those who are incarcerated the opportunity to vote in prisons.”

Greater Grace is one of the many early voting satellite locations around Detroit. While no one dropped off an absentee ballot during the walk, Ellis encouraged a resident passing by to go inside the church to vote early. 

Another Walk the Vote parade was held in Southfield on Oct. 25 and included appearances from elected officials such as Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and 35th House District Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden. 

Similar voting parades are being held in more than 18 cities in a number of pivotal swing states such as Michigan to motivate people to turn in absentee ballots before it’s too late. 

“We think that Walk the Vote is very innovative. We think that it has purpose… and certainly however we can participate to help encourage people, to admonish people, to impress upon them the importance, then we ought to be a part of that,” said Ellis. 

In Michigan, people have until 8 p.m. Election night to turn in absentee ballots to their local clerk’s office. 

Nearly 2.6 million people have already returned their absentee ballots of the roughly 3.3 million absentee ballots requested, according to Benson’s office.

Detroit residents requested about 181,000 absentee ballots, but nearly 50,000 haven’t been returned yet.