Elder Harris is taking voter turnout to new heights.
The 66-year-old Sandtown resident and pastor of Newborn Community of Faith church says he plans to live on the roof of 1947 Pennsylvania Avenue until 514 people from his community vote in Maryland's primary election.
Harris plans to begin his protest on Saturday, April 16 at 10 a.m., two days after early voting begins.
"We have to honor our ancestors, those who came before us who fought for us to have the right to vote, their struggle was not in vain,” Harris said in a news release. “This is an extreme measure to let our community know how important it is to get out and vote."
Harris is taking to the roof of his church to help increase voter turnout by 100 percent, he says, a feat he hopes will be aided by a recent change in state law giving ex-offenders on parole and probation the right to vote. His initiative says only 257 residents from the neighborhood went to the Gilmor Elementary School polling place during the last primary election to cast their ballots.
The Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood in West Baltimore made headlines during the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray last April, and Harris wants his community to have a voice in shaping Baltimore’s future.
The roof climb will coincide with the ninth annual Boundary Block Party hosted by grassroots organizations including The No Boundaries Coalition and Beats, Rhymes and Relief. The No Boundaries Coalition will provide free shuttles to early voting sites during the event.
Voters can let Harris know they’ve cast their vote using the hashtags #Ivoted and #deVoted500, and supporters are invited to stop by the church—also the site of local community space Jubilee Arts—to bring snacks and to cheer Harris on.