Voting in Miami, where yo no hablo
6:30 am – Sofitel hotel
Diego Gomez picks me up in his taxi. This morning’s mission: monitor as much voting as I can before my flight to Cleveland. I show Diego a list of polling places places I’ve determined are nearby. Diego pulls out of the parking lot and sings along to Lite FM 101.5.
6:35 am – Residential Plaza senior community
Polls are supposed to open at 7, and maybe forty or fifty people are waiting on a covered concrete patio to enter the polling place. Many are seated and many are old. But not everyone. I approach a working-aged man standing at the back of the line and explain that I’m a reporter.
“Where’s you’re crew?” he asks.
“I’m a writer,” I say. “I wish I had a crew.”
“Don’t we all.”
Most conversations are in Spanish. Accented English is limited to when people speak to me. A woman handing out campaign fliers doesn’t speak any English at all. What we have here is a failure to communicate. Then again, I’m clearly not the target demographic.
6:50 am – St. Dominic Gardens apartment complex
Birds wander the parking lot with little fear as voters join the line in front of the closed door. A Miami-Dade County government car parked out says “Delivering Excellence Every Day.” I wonder if that will be funny later.
I speak to a volunteer Obama observer outside the polling place named Mario Lopez-Blanco. He doesn’t expect a long line because so many people have voted early. His wife is a poll watching volunteer stationed inside the building. Mario admits that he’s biased, but he believes Obama has a superior organization. Since I see no evidence of Team Romney, I’m inclined to believe him.
Mario tells me that at another polling place, somebody tried to provoke him by calling Obama a socialist. Mario says that’s not true, since the Supreme Court disbanded the Communist Party in 1942. I’m not sure that’s correct, but he insists on it.
I’m approached by a tall election official whose nametag reads Placido Alonso. Maybe he saw me taking a picture, or maybe he can just tell that the guy with the dirty blonde hair and the flannel shirt isn’t from around here. He has very fresh breath and slick hair. I tell him I’m a reporter; he tells me where I’m allowed to take pictures and interview people. “I try to refresh you the rules,” he says. Got it.
At 7:22, the line has about fifty people or so and still doesn’t seem to be moving. I wonder if the station is still closed, but a few people are trickling out of the building as if they’ve voted. At 7:31, the doors open and officials let in about ten or so people. I guess the line is moving – just very, very slowly.
7:42 am – Ig. Cristina Ref Buen Samaritano (a church)
Another line of fifty or more with no discernable movement. A woman hands out pro-Romney fliers in Spanish and English comparing positions on Catholic issues. “Abortos” is numero uno, followed by “matrimonios homosexuales” and “libertad religiosa.”
A black guy in an orange vest asks if I’m here to vote. I tell him I’m a reporter. Can I look inside the polling place? He runs to check.
A black woman with a few gold teeth comes out to deliver the verdict:
“No, not right now.”
Is she allowed to deny me access? Is this suppression of the press? I have no idea and no time to argue. I’ve got to catch my flight to Cleveland. As Diego drives me to the airport, the radio confirms my observations – with eleven amendments on the Florida ballot, it’s taking a long time to vote.
9:00 am – Flight AA 3468, Miami airport tarmac
“Current weather conditions in Cleveland . . . 28 degrees.”
Damn. So long, palm trees.