October 27, 2008

Early Voting in Miami: Amendment 8

Vote Yes Amendment 8 MiamiFrom the first time I voted in a US election to the last county election, whenever I went to the polling station, I used to look disdainfully at the partisans with their hats, t-shirts, and placards supporting their cause or candidate and think, “Who are these crazy people?”

Well, on Wednesday 22, 2008, I became a crazy person. And I’m proud of it.

But it didn’t happen overnight. Craziness like this takes planning.

On Saturday, October 18, 2008, after collecting my palm cards and t-shirt from the Amendment 8 PAC, I went to my local Home Depot and bought the wood for the handle of the placard and went to Office Depot to make copies of the signs. I may be crazy, but I’m not cheap.

Then, I went home and as I was putting the placard together, I began thinking about American democracy and how easy it was to become involved in a political cause. It also made me think about the difference between American and Jamaican politics. Elections in Jamaica are a dangerous business. Voters have been killed because of the political rivalry. There have even been cases where innocents have been murdered for wearing the “wrong” color during the election season—either “orange” for the PNP or “green” for the JLP. At least in America, no one was going to shoot at me for supporting Amendment 8. Or were they? I have some friends who are pretty much anti- everything.

After making the placards on Saturday, I had to wait until Wednesday, the day for which I had volunteered, and went with my coworker, Agnes, to the early voting site at North Miami Public Library.

On Wednesday morning, I got up at five and Agnes and I got to the library at six thirty in the morning. It was still dark, yet to my surprise, there were approximately a hundred and twenty people already in the line that snaked around the building and out into the street—well beyond the 100 foot barrier beyond which we could not solicit any votes.

As we unpacked our water and granola bars, we looked around to find a good spot (like with everything else, it’s location, location, location) where we could interact with the voters—many of whom looked at me the way I used to look at the crazy supporters with the hats, t-shirts, and placards.

For the most part, our solicitations went well, and my job was fairly easy. I reminded the voters to Punch #140 (Amendment 8) while Agnes worked the line with her palm cards. We didn't have to do much convincing and most of the voters were pleasant--despite the three hour wait in the line. It also helped that many of the voters were either students, ex-students, or knew someone was attending or attended Miami Dade College. I even saw one of my former students and began to think that if I had failed him, he would vote against Amendment 8 to spite me. Luckily, he had passed my freshman comp. course and I breathed a sigh of relief.

At nine o’clock Agnes and I picked up our palm cards and placards and drove back to the college to put in a full day. It was going to be a long day, but we left the voting station feeling that we had done something meaningful in the two hours we had volunteered.

And somewhere deep down in my little immigrant heart, I was proud to be participating at a new level in American democracy. I could almost hear the opening lines of The Godfather in my head: “I love America.”


Jdid said...

your post brought back a thought to me.

Not sure if the US and Canada are similar but my wife says its considered impolite well rather rude to discuss politics in proper circles here in Canada. She says its just that all we West Indians duz talk about is religion and politics but Canadians dont talk about that stuff.

What I do find interesting though is that Canadians express their political allegiances by sticking big political signs on their lawns. So its impolite to talk about politics but its ok to have a big party sign on your lawn? strange I think. So its impolite and weird to discuss with a few people my politica views but its alright to have the whole neighbourhood see that I support NDP or Liberal or Conservative?

Its the complete opposite in Barbados. There we chat nuff politics but only real diehards putting any sort of party paraphernalia on their property.

Anyway when I see you with that sign thats the first thing pop into my head.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Jdid, I don't think I'd have a sign on my lawn in Jamaica--too dangerous--but I do have signs for Amendment 8 everywhere. Maybe because I believe in this issue. I've even become *gasp* a telemarketer for Amendment 8!

Stephen A. Bess said...

Go head, Geoffrey! You know, this election season is so important. My nearly 90 year old grandfather will be voting for the first time in a long time.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Stephen, I think it will the most important election of our lifetime.

miracle said...

I most defintely am going to vote, I feel it's a necessity for the collge !

Geoffrey Philp said...

Great, Miracle. Great!