Haitian community awaits decision as immigration and gentrification issues hang in the balance
By Philippe H. Buteau
At a church in Fort Lauderdale, with a congregation of supporters surrounding him, Andrew Gillum was a part of a quintet of preachers who responded with faith to the first gubernatorial recount in Florida’s history.
After more than a year of campaigning, Floridians thought after voting took place on Tuesday, Nov. 6 there would have been an end to another round of divisive elections. However, as the results came in and after a concession was given, the certainty of the results were in doubt and it became clear the count would have to be redone for Florida’s agriculture commissioner, senate and gubernatorial races.
“I’m here to say votes cast should be counted, every last single one of them,” Gillum said to the congregation of supporters. “The America I know would say that’s automatic.”
“If King were here this would be his cause,” said Dr. Rhonda Thomas, pastor of the New Generation Missionary Baptist Church in Opa-Locka and campaign manager for Let My People Vote, a group that advocates for the restoration of voting rights.
“All of our voices should be heard through our vote,” she said.
Although votes were still being counted when Gillum conceded, it’s customary for candidates in races for public office to concede or be declared winner the night of voting. Voting for the 2018 elections ended on Tuesday, but by Friday other races were still considered “too close to call,” and one even flipped.
Gillum went from being 80,000 votes behind on election night to a 0.41 vote margin–the outcome of more than 21 months of campaigning still has days until it’s decided.
The outcome of the election can have a severe impact on the Haitian community in South Florida, which is battling issues tied to immigration and affordable housing.
If elected, Gillum could prove to be an adversary to the Republican-held legislature and an ally to Democrats in the State House and Senate, who support progressive legislation that is inline with issues facing the Haitian community.
Haitians by a significant margin vote to resolve the issues that impact their communities. According to five-year estimates from the Census bureau’s American Communities Survey, there are at least 106,284 Haitian-born naturalized U.S. citizens registered in Florida. Daniel Smith, University of Florida political science professor, tweeted in January 2018 that 19 percent of Haitian voters are registered Democrats, 16 are independents and 3.5 are Republicans. While the majority of registered Haitian voters align themselves with the Democratic Party, a number of Haitians identify with Republican ideals, which was made clear during the 2016 presidential election.
In 2016, 75 percent of Haitians voted “disproportionately” for Hillary Clinton, Smith tweeted. Twenty percent of Haitian voters went for Trump, said UF Political professor Sharon D. Wright Austin to the Sun Sentinel.
On Friday, two sides that could not be any further apart, came much closer in front of the office of Brenda C. Snipes, the Broward County supervisor of elections. Supporters and critics of Gillum took part in competing demonstrations outside of the building, in response to the vote recount.
Police cruisers and tape separated the D demonstrators from the entrance, and the vans from local broadcast stations funnelled protesters together. They shouted at each other for the most part but eventually were face-to-face, megaphone-to-megaphone.
While the demonstrations went on, several counties in Florida were still counting their votes, one of them being Broward, according to Florida’s Election Watch, an official results monitoring website under the Department of State.
Palm Beach still had incomplete vote-by-mail and provisional ballots. Alachua, Osceola, Putnam, Santa Rosa and Walton had incomplete provisional ballots. All of Florida’s 67 counties had incomplete 10-day overseas vote-by-mail ballots. Broward also had incomplete ballots for vote-by-mail, provisional and early voting.
By Sunday all counties had their ballots complete except for the 10-day overseas vote-by-mail ballots.
Snipes, who was appointed by former Governor Jeb Bush in 2003, has been the subject of several lawsuits filed by left-leaning Tim Canova and two others from the Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and American Civil Rights Union. In 2017, Canova sued Snipes’ office for destroying federal ballots before she had the authorization. In one lawsuit, her office was accused of improperly removing ineligible voters from voter rolls.
Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott also sued Broward County over its delay in completing its vote count; and filed a separate suit against Snipes and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Buchner to impound elections equipment after the recount ends and preserve all ballots and records of the 2018 election, as is usual.
A judge ruled Friday, Nov. 9 Snipes must allow inspection by 7 p.m. that day.
Lauderhill resident Valerie Judon, 45, said blame should be spread out and not put all on Snipes.“It takes time to count those votes,” Judon said. “It’s impossible in two or three days.”
Corey Thompson, 36, made the 20-minute drive down from Pompano Beach to observe. He hopes every vote gets counted.
“Everyone who voted their voice should be heard,” Thompson said. “Your vote is your voice, it should not be silent.”