Silicon Valley religious leaders plan event for peaceful transition of power
The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters is registering same-day voters. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

As tensions rise in anticipation of the presidential election outcome, Silicon Valley religious leaders are wasting no time in starting the healing process.

They are holding a “Count All Votes” event Nov. 4, following the final deadline for voters to cast ballots. The all-day event that is open to the public will be focused on de-escalation, cultural awareness and a peaceful transition of power. It also will be streamed on Facebook.

The organizers — members of the Silicon Valley Faith Leaders Collaborative in partnership with Protect Our Community, a coalition of 28 major Silicon Valley nonprofits — will gather at San Jose City Hall at 11 a.m. to begin a day-long series of trainings, discussions and a vigil. The event concludes with a two-hour rally beginning at 6 p.m. in front of City Hall.

Six weeks ago, Scott Myers-Lipton, a Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Services professor at San Jose State University, said he reflected on what President Donald Trump had said about mail-in ballots and election results.

Myers-Lipton said he believed there were two potential outcomes of the statements: He refuses to concede but leaves office, spending the next 5-10 years saying the election had been rigged or he doesn’t concede and instead declares victory Nov. 3, creating confusion that leads to changes in state legislature for the six battleground states.

Myers-Lipton shared these thoughts with his friend Rev. Jethro Moore II of San-Jose/Silicon Valley chapter of the NAACP, who asked Myers-Lipton to present them at an event for Prop. 15 in mid-September.

“I gave that analysis to several hundred folks,” he said. “After that, Jeth and I — we’re part of a group called Protect Our Community — decided to sponsor an event.”

Myers-Lipton connected with the Silicon Valley Faith Leaders Collaborative, and the two groups began to work together on the event in the beginning of October.

“This is a non-partisan event — we’re talking about democracy and the sacred right to vote,” Myers-Lipton said. “Count all the votes, and whoever wins, that person is then elected.”

Rev. Steve Pinkston of the Maranatha Christian Center is one of the nine leading members of the Faith Leaders Collaborative and was brought to the forefront of leading planning and advertising for the event. He and Myers-Lipton were previously acquainted through Pinkston’s leadership role at Bellarmine College Prep, where Myers-Lipton’s son was a student.

Pinkston said the multi-religious group was formed following George Floyd’s murder on May 25. In mid-June, the group organized a peace march from Temple Emanu-El, making seven stops throughout the San Jose in an effort to showcase the issues of racism, prejudice and dismissal and diminishing of marginalized groups.

“We are trying to combat racism in society and supporting of Black Lives Matter, and be reflective of what Dr. Cornell West said when he declared, ‘Justice is what love looks like in contemporary society,’” Pinkston said.

Following the march, the group continued meeting and looking toward the Nov. 3 election, thinking of how best to call for all votes to be counted as part of the democratic progress. In connecting with Myers-Lipton and Protect Our Community, Pinkston said their combined efforts led to support for peace and unity within the community.

“As a faith community, we must be out front with what our tenets say, which is loving one’s neighbor and being compassionate for others,” he said. “The religious community has too often been silent, and we must be accountable, confess our sins and move forward to value all of God’s creations.”

The event — with more than 500 RSVPs as of Monday morning — is the start of weeks of programming to encourage all votes are counted, organizers said.

“We realize that this is a template for possibly other groups to come together — we’ve heard from people as far away as Modesto and Fresno,” Pinkston said. “Will violence erupt (over the results)? We pray not — but as the old adage says, you hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Ultimately, the organizers want participants to remember this is a non-violent, non-partisan event, and the primary issue is the fundamental right to vote.

“If you believe in democracy — that’s Democrats and Republicans, Green and Independent, Peace and Freedom — whoever you are, if you believe in democracy, the right to vote is a bedrock of our nation,” Myers-Lipton said. “If we don’t allow all the votes to be counted, we don’t have a democracy.”

The groups want to ensure nonviolence and a peaceful transition of power from now through Dec. 14, the Meeting of the Electors for all 538 members of the Electoral College to cast their ballots for president and vice president.

Contact Grace Stetson at [email protected] and follow her @grace_m_stetson on Twitter.

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