Early voting sets pace for election day
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump didn’t have to look any farther than a nearby group of children playing in front of Leon County House to explain why early voting was so important.
Their future and the rights of every Black person were at stake, an emotional Crump said.
“I vote for these children, my godson; my daughter; all these young people,” Crump said. “Their future is really going to be shaped a lot by this election. It’s not only going to control who goes into the White House, it’s also going to control who wins the United States Senate.”
Crump was one of dozens of Black leaders who showed up this past Sunday for the final day of early voting. Churches around Florida promoted the final day of early voting as an event, calling it Souls to the Polls.
Rev. Jesse Jackson also made an appearance in support of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He urged voters to take advantage of the right to vote; reminding a crowd gathered in front City Hall that Blacks had to fight for the right.
“It’s an opportunity,” Jackson said. “Secondly, it gives some momentum for those who come Tuesday, and thirdly, voting is the crown jewel of America. This is the way to win.”
Early voting has long been a concern for minorities, especially after the 2004 elections when Barack Obama was elected the first Black president. Democrat argued that thousands of voters in Florida were being denied the right to vote, setting off a debate among lawmakers that eventually resulted in extended hours for early voting.
“If it’s about everybody having the right to vote; everybody having the right to self-determination; why would you try to limit people’s right to interact in the democratic process,” Crump said. “It’s about giving access to the right to vote.”
Leon County voters had the choice of eight polling places during a two-week period that began Oct. 24. Former state senator Al Lawson who ran for congress, was among the lawmakers pushing for early voting with longer hours.
“This is one of the things that always kept us back,” Lawson said. “As a result it was so important that they exercise the right to vote today. This is what we always wanted.
“It should be open all the time for people to vote. We are a democracy. Some people say we’ve been a democracy for 200 years, but we really haven’t. It’s only been a democracy for the last 50 years.”
A cross-section of Leon County residents – from college students to the elderly – waited in a long line during most of the final eight hours that the poll was opened Sunday at the courthouse. Several other counties through the state reported huge turnouts for early voting.
The numbers have been surprising to the pundits who predicted low turnout because they suspected that voters were displeased with their choices for president. However, numbers released by the state Division on Election showed that more than 6 million people in Florida had voted by mail or by going to the polls early.
“It’s a beautiful thing that we have lines this long,” said Ramon Alexander, who won a seat in the legislature during the August primary. “The people are saying this is my right; people have died for that right. We are citizen of America and we are going to make our voices heard. This is very significant. It’s great that we are moving forward in spite of those who try to suppress the vote.”