Early Voting in North Miami: Long Lines and Lots of Patience

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL., NOV. 2 – By Macollvie Jean-François, Sun Sentinel reporter.

On the day elections officials said would break turnout records, Marie St. Fort stood in line around the corner from a North Miami library, squinting into a harsh afternoon sun. She was about 200th in line, waiting to vote early.

“Oh, I don’t care if it goes into the morning, I’ll stay right here,” St. Fort, 49, said. “I have to vote today. I have so many reasons to vote, I don’t know where to start.”

Like many others who showed up at crunch time, the Haitian-born mother of five said she had to get voting out of the way because she had too many errands to run Sunday —the last day to vote early in Florida— between attending church and other activities. As St. Fort shuffled along over two hours, campaigners came along, making last-ditch attempts to get their way with local amendments and even to give away free candy bars and lollipops. A local Haitian activist stopped by to see if anyone had any problems voting. One woman came bearing a tray of $1 hot dogs individually wrapped in foil.

The Miami Herald reported that “a huge increase in early voting has given Democrats a decided advantage over Republicans in Florida,” which represents a break from voting trends seen in the 2004 presidential election.

By the time St. Fort reached the 75th-or-so spot from the library entrance, the sun had gone down. A boisterous councilman was nearby joking with everyone. A man who identified himself as “voter protection” stood off to the side, watching. St. Fort was laughing and chatting with those around her in line, most of them wearing “Caribbean Americans for Obama” stickers on their clothes. It was the longest St. Fort had waited to cast a ballot in her 25 years voting in the U.S.

“I didn’t even realize how much time had passed, we’ve been talking so much,” St. Fort said. “Now, everybody’s out to vote; that’s a good thing.”

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