Tag: South Florida

Race to See Who Can Be Florida’s Most Anti-Illegal Immigration Candidate

The fight between Bill McCollum and Rick Scott for Florida’s GOP gubernatorial nomination has featured anti-immigrant rhetoric–and it’s making the some of the state’s Hispanic Republicans uneasy.

Haitian Americans Edge Toward First U.S. Congress Seat

Four out of nine candidates in the Democratic Primary in Florida’s 17th district are Haitian American. Community leaders fear they will split the vote and miss an opportunity to send the first Haitian American to Congress.

Fort Lauderdale: A Haitian American Feels Guilty for Not Being Able to Vote Obama

Wenda Desauguste

Wenda Desauguste outside a polling site in South Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Macollvie Jean-Francois, Sun Sentinel reporter.

Something had to be done with those boys. As their parents voted inside a local church, the boys, about seven of them, ran around the parking lot and in an adjacent lot — impatient.

Wenda Desauguste, 25 and a football coach, stepped up. Within minutes, the boys were on the ground doing push-ups, spinning wheels and other exercises.

Desauguste said she and four other friends came to the church, at North Andrews Avenue and Northeast 13th Street, to vote — some of them for the first time.

“Who are we supporting, guys?” she asked the boys.

“Obama, Obama,” they said, puffing, while they continued with their exercises.

By then, the boys were sweating. The sun had burst through by mid-afternoon, after a temperate morning, and it now beat down on the few voters waiting outside the polling location.

Nelson Garache, 32, and Joseph Beautelus, 48, were also waiting there.


Immigrant Voters in South Florida: A Haitian-American Hoping for Change

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Macollvie Jean-Francois, Sun Sentinel reporter.

It’s an overcast, slightly chilly, dry day in South Florida: perfect voting weather, if the experts are correct.

Lines at precincts in the Fort Lauderdale area were long earlier in the day, when polls opened at 7 a.m. They have been moving, and speeding up as the morning progresses. The average wait has been about one to one and a half hours.

Cateline Hjardemaal, who is pregnant, said in Miramar she spent only about fifteen minutes in line, until poll workers noticed her jutting tummy.

“It was easy,” Hjardemaal, a Haitian-American, said. “I need a change. I hope [government programs] will be back to the way they were before. Today, everything is about cutting. They cut, cut everything.”

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.


First-Time Voters in a Battleground State: Immigrants Step Up to the Polls in South Florida

Election worker Pierre Audain (left) looks on as first-time voter Lucille Dorasme, 79, practices using a Florida voting machine.

Election worker Pierre Audain (left) looks on as first-time voter Lucille Dorasme, 79, practices using a Florida voting machine.

This post is by Macollvie Jean-François, a reporter at the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A couple of weeks ago, while talking about the presidential election at a Fort Lauderdale strip mall, Gregory Fleurinor, 31, took his voter registration card out of his wallet. He wanted to prove that he is registered — and indeed he has been since January 2006.

Fleurinor, however, has never used the card. The clammy feel of the paper, a result of being pressed against other cards in his wallet, ignored, attests to that. Barely a month before the election, the Haitian-American delivery driver said he still hadn’t made up his mind about whether he would vote.

“I’m just not used to voting, I’ve never done it,” Fleurinor said, shrugging. “I haven’t decided if I will go [to the polls]. Everyone else is going, what difference will it make if I don’t go?”

Groups in immigrant communities have been working feverishly to ensure people like Fleurinor do vote. They are targeting both newly naturalized Americans and those who simply never bothered to go to the polls in the past.

Events like a free Jay-Z-Wyclef Jean concert in Miami on Oct. 5, which one immigrant empowerment advocate called “awareness builders,” receive great attention, but they do not necessarily get people out to vote. What does translate into ballots are other, less flashy, ongoing efforts by community and advocacy groups, like door-to-door canvassing, phone calls and simulated voting exercises.

The latter combat the fear many immigrants and first-time voters have about their debut in the polling booth. Some simply do not know enough about how to cast their vote; others still harbor fears that stem from chaotic, even dangerous, experiences in their birth countries.