Turnout Sunday seemed lighter than the massive numbers that came out for the first day of early voting on Saturday, when a record-breaking 22,625 people waited up to 5 ½ hours to vote in Miami-Dade. Wait times were shorter on Sunday, from no time at all at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami to as long as three hours at the West Kendall Regional Library, according to the Miami-Dade Elections website.
There was a lively crowd at the Caleb Center, where a truck blasted R&B music for a line of people that stretched into the parking lot, waiting up to an hour and a half to vote. Others streamed in from buses to the center’s auditorium, where religious and political leaders rallied a crowd of about 200 people.
Pastor Carl Johnson of the 93rd Street Baptist Church, who had helped lead several Liberty City churches on a march to the Caleb Center, invoked the civil rights movement and the sacrifices of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Medgar Evers. “There is a spirit of apathy nowadays because people forgot!” Johnson said to shouts of “Hallelujah!” “Dr. King laid down on a balcony so that we should have the right to vote!” he said.
Others compared the early-voting cutbacks, as well as this year’s controversial Republican effort to tighten voter identification requirements in Florida, with the civil and voting rights battles of the 1950s and ’60s.
“I saw the civil rights movement as a child. I remember those marches,” said Vanessa Byers, 55.
A leader of a Miami chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, started by African-American women in 1908, Byers was helping lead an attention-getting phalanx of 50 women from AKA. They gathered outside the Caleb Center in black suits, white gloves and pearls, pink corsages and pink tape over their mouths, holding signs that read “No vote — no voice.”
“We’re getting the message out to people who don’t know the importance of voting no matter what,” Byers said. “But I think this cutting back just mobilizes people to say, ‘We’re gonna vote in spite of this.’ ”
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story should have noted that more than 20 Miami area churches, pastors and community groups worked with PICO Florida on Sunday's "Souls to the Polls" get out the vote drive.
Nicole Best, a visiting journalist with the Caribbean Media Corp. contributed to this report.