Haitian group in Florida say there are problems at the polls

By: Nicole Best – MIAMI-DADE, FLORIDA – Wednesday 31st October, 2012

Leader of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition (HAGC) Jean-Robert LaFortune says his organization is aggrieved over the inability of the Miami Dade Elections Department to handle Haitian-American voters at the polls.

In a press release issued on Monday evening, LaFortune said his organization, a non-political non-partisan pressure group, has been receiving reports of insufficient Haitian creole translators at the polling centres, causing delays in voting.

“With an average of 7-hours waiting at the City of North Miami Library precinct and five hours at the Miami-Dade Lemon City Library, dozens of voters, discouraged with the waiting game, have been forced to abandon the line to attempt to come back the next day,” the release said.

“A 103-year old Haitian-American has had to come on two occasions to cast her ballot,” the statement added.

LaFortune lamented the fact that a training session for first time voters, which was supposed to be held on Monday was cancelled adding that he has been calling for a meeting with the Elections to Department since August but has not had a response.

The Haitian population in Florida, is the highest among Caribbean Americans and in Miami-Dade alone there is over 79,000 Haitian-Americans registered to vote, according to the 2009 American Community Survey.

Residents of Miami-Dade are predominantly Democrats and many believe the lack of sufficient translators is among efforts to discourage voter turn-out of these minority groups.

“In a lot of states, they are trying to block early voting,” said Debbie Dorsett member of a social pressure group Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc,.

“There have been a number of voter suppression activities that have been going on legislatively and otherwise,” said Political Consultant Glenn Joseph.

In a number of states, including Florida early voting days have bene cut by almost half, from 14 days to 8 and in Florida, no longer can the electorate vote on the Sunday before elections.

“Why would you change something that has been working ever since there has been early voting? Why all of a sudden in most states where you have Republican governors, Republican state attorneys, Republican legislators…those are the states where you have the early voting blocks being reduced or the voter ID problems that are being encountered?” Dorsett questioned.

Early Voting in Florida ends on Saturday at 7 pm (local time) and many believe there would be long queues throughout the day at all of the Early Voting Polling Stations.©

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