By: Nicole Best – MIAMI DADE, FLORIDA – Monday 29TH October, 2012
On the second day of early voting in US Presidential Elections in the state of Florida, pastors and church leaders were encouraging their congregation to exercise their rights and go to the polls.
That as the state of Florida observed “Souls to the Polls” day. The black American church communities across the US have been crucial to the electoral process and have over the years, promoted the exercise of adult franchise among its members.
At Caleb Center, one of the twenty Early Voting Stations in Florida, churches were busing in their members after Sunday worship, to give them the opportunity to cast their ballots before November 6th.
Episcopal Anglicans, Tedd and Brenda Johnson were not among persons who were brought by the church bus, but they said the message at their church on Sunday was that no one should take the issue of voting lightly.
“The main thing was that everyone should take advantage of the right and privilege of voting,” said Tedd, in response to a question as to the theme of the sermon for the day.
“There wasn’t any proselytizing as to who to vote for but it was understood that you needed to vote; don’t take this for granted.”
Both Tedd and Brenda, (Brenda is of Jamaican decent) are self-acclaimed Democrats and said they voted to put incumbent President Barack Obama back into the White House.
“I am proud to say that I’m a Democrat,” Tedd said.
Brenda told Best Media she chose to be a Democrat because “you get the impression that they are for folks like me; they care about the less fortunate, the poor folks”.
While some were voting based on encouragement from the church, others like Tiffany, a native black American, were self motivated, choosing to vote early because of work commitments.
Tiffany says she is a Democrat and has voted for Obama to have a second term. She says she believes in him and what he says he could do for the American middle class and she’s willing to give him the chance to do it.
“Some people saying they ain’t see no change but don’t realize it took a while to get what they got so it would take a while for him too,” Tiffany said.
“He said give him eight years, he didn’t say four; I’ll give him eight years,” she added.
“I’m satisfied with the way the economy is going right now,” said Shirley another native black American.
She and Chuck, her husband, who’s originally from Nigeria, say they are hopeful that President Obama would get another term in office and would this time have the opportunity to implement the legislation he tried to, but was blocked from doing by the Republicans in the House.
On Sunday at the Caleb Centre in Miami Dade County, scores of people came out in a steady stream to vote and most of them proclaimed democrats.
And while Sunday’s voting was in progress, an all black women Sorority Group on staged a march outside the CALEB Centre in Miami Dade County, encouraging people to go to the polls.
The 15 women of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc (AKA) dressed in black with pearl necklaces and pink corsages, marched around the block with pink tapes across their lips, holding placards which read “No Vote; No Voice”; “Souls To The Polls”.
The group said they were doing that to counter what they say are attempts by members of the Republican Party to frighten people from minority groups away from the polls.
“They understand that for the most part, the black African-Americans come out during early voting,” said Debbie Dorsett, a member of the group who is originally from St. Thomas.
In a number of battleground states – states in which voting is crucial to the outcome of the elections – including Florida, new laws have reduced the number of early voting days.
In previous elections, voters were allowed to go to the polls up to the Sunday before the elections. This year, the last day of pre-election voting in Florida is Saturday November 3rd.
“The Sunday prior to the election day is normally the biggest day individuals go out and vote, so the more you can diminish individuals, blocking their voice, blocking their ability to cast their vote, it bolds for the other party,” Dorsett added.
But Barbara Connor-Blyden, also from St. Thomas and a member of AKA is not convinced that the shortening of the days for early voting has put a damper on the spirits of black voters.
“I think they made us more determined because our forefathers and foremothers died for us to have this opportunity to vote.”
She added that if it was the intention to reduce the number of black voters going to early polls, “we are going to prove them wrong.”
Early voting started in Florida on Saturday October 27th. Miami-Dade County, Florida’s largest county, witnessed the highest number of ballots cast — 22,625 – an increase of over 12,000 ballots on first day early voting from 2008. Miami-Dade is home to 1.3 million registered voters.
In Broward County, also among the state’s largest counties, has the second largest number of registered voters (1.1 million). More than 54,000 cast their ballots early with that number expected to have increased markedly by the end of voting on Sunday.
A total of 11.934 million people are registered to vote in the state of Florida.
Political Editor at the Miami Herald, Gustos Sergio explained that it is customary in many US states including Florida for more democrats to participate in the early voting process through in-person voting, while more republicans participate through absentee voting.
As of October 9th there were 11.9 million persons in Florida registered to vote; 4.7 million of which are registered as democrats, 4.2 million registered as republicans and 2. 6 registered as Non-party Affiliate’s (NPA). The remaining 400,000 are scattered between 16 smaller political parties registered in the state.©