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Without voting you have no power

LAPLACE—A political forum featuring local and state candidates will allow voters the opportunity to make educated and informed choices in the Nov. 3 election, according to organizers.

The Church Meets Government Meet the Candidates forum is scheduled Oct. 19 at Choice International Ministries in LaPlace. The event opens at 6 p.m. for community time and the forum is scheduled 30 minutes later.

“People want to be more in touch with the political person they are voting for,” said Bishop Antoine Jasmine of Choice International. “They can see the candidate and how they articulate. Voters can see them as real people.”

“The church has the responsibility to educate,’ Jasmine, who is hosting the event, added. “This is something that has not been done in the parish for a very long time.”

Moderator JaVon Ophelia Butler said candidates from the U.S. Senate race and two U.S. House of Representatives races are expected to be attendance, although incumbent Sen. Bill Cassidy and incumbent Rep. Garrett Graves of the 6th Congressional District, both Republicans, will be absent. Butler said Cassidy is in the midst of the Senate confirmation hearing of potential Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett and Graves said he had a previous engagement he could not opt out of.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, the Democrat incumbent from the 2nd Congressional District, is expected to attend, Butler said.

Also in attendance will be candidates in the parish’s justice of the peace and constable races.

“I think it’s very important to have this type of forum for the community for the constituency to understand who they are voting for and what the candidates believe,” Butler said. “Secondly, voters need to understand the statutes and laws that are already in place as to why different things happen within the community and why public servants do the things they do.

“It gives voters more of an opportunity to understand the platform of the person whom they are supporting and to understand the issues facing the community.”

Butler said the format is efficient, allowing candidates to state their platforms but in a timely manner. She said each candidate will have two minutes to introduce themselves and discuss their ideas for moving the parish forward.

Butler will then ask questions regarding each candidate’s platform. Debate will likely occur when one candidate states a position contradictory to another candidate’s position.

Each candidate will have one minute for rebuttal.

The initial hour will feature the constable and justice of the peace races, with the second hour reserved for the Senate and House races.

Butler said she expects the forum to last no more than two hours, at which time she hopes voters will have knowledge and better understanding of each candidate’s position so an informed decision can be made at the polls.

“It gives the voters an opportunity to be able to differentiate, giving them more of a knowledge of the platform and not voting for a name,” she said “The constituents can leave with a sharper view of the platforms so they can understand the decision (candidates) will make if elected to the seat.

“Whatever the candidates believe will shape the community, so it’s important to vote for a platform that will help the community.”

Butler said an emphasis will be placed on encouraging people to vote. She said voting is a First Amendment right and helps democracy.

“Without voting you have no power,” Butler said.

The forum is free of charge and those attending will have their temperature taken at the door, checked to make sure they are wearing masks and will also have to use hand sanitizer that will be provided.

Social distancing will also be observed. Jasmine said he expects to allow in a crowd of about 100 in a church that typically seats 300.

The forum can also be viewed live streaming on Antoine Jasmine or JaVon Ophelia Butler SeLah Productions, Inc. Facebook pages.

The church is located at 516 East Airline Highway in Laplace.