Southfield parade encourages voters to drop off ballots

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Southfield — "Voting parades" are springing up in pivotal swing states, including Michigan, and on Sunday, residents joined an event in Southfield, where advocates urged folks to the polls for in-person or early voting.

"We want to restore the excitement of voting," said 35th House District Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, who helped organized the event with Walk the Vote, a national nonpartisan organization. "We need to make sure the will of the people is actually represented and that's what people do through their vote."

Similar voting parades are being held in more than 18 cities in a number of pivotal swing states. About 30 people turned out Sunday in Southfield.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, left, leads the parade with Michigan Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, to right with a blue sweater under a black jacket, Sunday in Southfield.

The parade began at the Southfield Public Library and ended a short distance away at the Parks and Recreations building, where the crowd made a "Soul Train line" to cheer on four voters who put their ballots in a drop box.

"It's more important than ever to get out and vote, no matter who you are, Republican or Democrat. Someone laid their life down for us to be able to vote," said Cornelius Mickels, 35, of Southfield, who dropped his ballot off Sunday. "Plus, with our busy schedule, this was just so easy for us to come and do."

Michigan Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, right, high-fives Cornelius Mickels, 35, as he is about to cast his absentee ballot at the Southfield Civic Center.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson led the parade with Harris, clapping, stomping and dancing  to James Brown's hit "Get Up Offa That Thing," and adding "and vote" to the lyrics. 

Benson and Harris provided a burst of energy to the crowd on the chilly afternoon as they led the chants.

"Voting is a celebratory thing, voting is a safe thing, it's a secure thing. We don't want anyone to be afraid to vote, we want people to be proud to vote," said Benson.

From left, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson high fives Laura Mickels, 32, after Mickels casts her absentee ballot at the Southfield Civic Center. People participate in a community-wide voting parade at the Southfield Public Library walking to the civic center in Southfield, Mich. in Detroit on Oct. 25, 2020.

Benson issued an order this month banning the open carry of guns within 100 feet of polling places amid fears of voter intimidation during the Nov. 3 election. 

"Whether someone's voting early at their drop box or on Election Day, voting will be safe and secure ... and I'm using every tool, along with the attorney general, at our disposal to ensure that's the case."

Michigan Open Carry, Michigan Gun Owners and the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners sued Thursday in Michigan's Court of Claims to stop the ban

Last week, Benson said more than 3 million people in Michigan have requested absentee ballots ahead of the Nov. 3 election and nearly all of them have mailed their ballots.