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Funeral Homes Help To Solve Transportation Needs For Voters


There are lots of people invested in making sure Americans cast their ballots today. Various organizations are making rides available and operating special buses. But there is one very special way that you can show up at the polls. Frank Morris of member station KCUR takes a ride.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Kansas City funeral director Duane Harvey has been giving people free rides on Election Day since the 1990s.

DUANE HARVEY: This is a Cadillac limousine - what they call the DTS. It's a DTS style, 2014.

MORRIS: It's a stretch. I mean, you...

HARVEY: Yes, sir. It's a stretch limo.

MORRIS: It's the car that carries family members to the funeral, not the hearse, which wouldn't exactly radiate optimism about voting. Harvey says this car weighs close to 7,000 pounds, delivering a velvety smooth ride and a regal experience.

HARVEY: You'd be surprised. People look at you just stepping out of a limousine coming to vote. You look like a VIP. Right.

MORRIS: Right.

HARVEY: And my drivers open the door for you and everything.

MORRIS: Across the country, some 200 funeral homes, most of them Black owned, are closing down services today to chauffeur thousands of people to the polls. Harvey says African American funeral homes have historically been pillars of their communities, so community service comes naturally.

HARVEY: As an American, it's all of our rights and privileges to vote.

MORRIS: The National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association organizes this massive undertaking. The rides are primarily for older residents. Association President Hari Close says the effort is not about politics.

HARI CLOSE: All we want to do is make sure you get out to vote. We're not going to emphasize who to vote, what to vote on. We just want you to exercise a vote that many people made sacrifices making sure that everyone has an opportunity to exercise that right.

MORRIS: And that's exactly what Tracy Travis expects to do this morning after one of Harvey's stretch limos pulls up to the front door of her apartment complex in Grandview, Mo.

TRACY TRAVIS: I could Uber it there, but that costs money. And right now, the budget's kind of tight. And it helps.

MORRIS: Travis, who's 61, has been in a limo only once before, and that was for a funeral. This, she says, is not only more fun but more urgent.

TRAVIS: The ride is going to be exciting, but go vote. Walk, bicycle, swim - I don't care. Go vote.

MORRIS: And she means even if you have to take a stretch limousine supplied by a funeral home.

For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Kansas City.

(SOUNDBITE OF STAN FOREBEE'S "THE MONSOON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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