2012-10-31 20:14:47

Florida Early Voters Show Up in Huge Numbers Despite Suppression Effort


 As the St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church vans pulled up to the C. Blythe Andrews library polling place to let congregants out to vote, a line already snaked out the voting entrance. A table was set up on one end of the libary’s parking lot where volunteers served fried fish and hush puppies. A DJ blared gospel music that could be heard blocks away. It was after-church Sunday, the first and only Sunday of “Souls to the Polls” in most of Florida, and the second day of early voting. Here in Tampa, early voters, and black voters in particular had already made their statement.

Despite setbacks such as Gov. Rick Scott’s HB 1355, which undercut voter registration drives, reinstated harsh felony voting restrictions and his notorious purge program, voters turned out in record numbers this past weekend: over a half-million people cast early votes statewide by Monday morning. In Hillsborough County, 36,702 early votes Saturday and Sunday—roughly 2,500 of those cast at the C. Blythe Andrews site in Tampa’s historically black College Hill neighborhood. As of last night, over 55,000 voted early.

These numbers far outweighed the historic 2008 election here, when less than 17,000 turned out for the first weekend of early voting, 1,248 at Andrews (then called College Hill Library). Back then, those were considered remarkable numbers. This year, they’ve almost doubled that, despite the odds against them.

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