Amazing enthusiasm in Dade as early voting starts (includes tips on casting ballots)

Thousands of voters showed up early across Miami-Dade County this morning to cast their ballots as early voting started. Some experts expect the general election to draw more attention and participation than any in recent history — and Monday’s start seemed to confirm that.

At the North Dade Library in Miami Gardens, Florida International University’s main campus and the North Miami public library, hundreds of voters showed up before dawn.

(Beatriz De La Portilla/SFMN)

The North Dade Library is generally one of the most popular polling stations in the region and Monday continued that trend. There was a line out of the door even before the library opened. Poll workers were guiding voters, and campaigns had canvassers on the ground working to reach the voter.

Shannan Ighodaro is running for Miami Gardens City Council seat 3; she was present at the library, trying to gain some traction with voters. “As a candidate, being here means everything. You have to touch the voter,” she said.

Zelma Siplin is 77 years old. She is originally from the Bahamas and has been a citizen of the United States since 1954. “I do early voting because I want to make sure my vote is in, and I don’t like voting by mail,” she said. She explained that this election is unlike any other she has seen. “I think people are taking things seriously. It’s important that everybody get out and vote to make a change.”

67-year-old Barbara Brown said her main causes for voting were minimum wage, disability rights and the environment. “I think the appointment of judges is very important because all we fight for sometimes can be undone by judges at times,” said Brown.

Lines at the North Miami election (Photo by Soraya Strouse)

Gail Jones is in her 50s and is originally from Detroit, but has lived in Miami Dade County for 30 years.  “I really believe that we need to stick together and show people that we can be a country that’s united,”  Jones said. “And also, I want Joe Biden to notice I’m holding him accountable.”

She added that she would like to see Kamala Harris stand up and represent the black community, which she doesn’t feel the current administration is representing. “You know, we need to stand up for ourselves at some point. And I don’t think Donald Trump is standing up for me.”

Several miles south at the North Miami public library, more than 200 people had shown up by 7:30 a.m. despite pouring rain just a few minutes before. Lines wrapped around the building and spilled all the way out to West Dixie Highway.

There were few signs for national candidates, but many for locals including Miami-Dade commission hopeful Keon Hardemon and mayoral Daniella Levine Cava. One campaign worker said Biden signs had been removed from around the neighborhood.

At FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus down south, lines were not long but voters steadily came and left.

Luisa Galecio, 42, is a Republican who switched to Democrat in order to vote for Biden. She said Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — a program that has allowed some undocumented immigrants to stay in the country — is the main reason she is voting Democrat this time around.

“I actually have friends whose kids [are a part of] the DACA program, and I’m really worried about them. Some of these kids have been here since they were 2 or 3 years old, so this is their country,” Galecio said.

Alex Sutton, an 18-year-old FIU student, said that his generation is engaged in this election. “I haven’t met anybody on campus who has said, ‘Ah, I don’t do politics, I’m not going to vote’. . . Everybody I’ve talked to in my dorm has an opinion on this election and is planning to go vote.”

Sutton relayed the story of a friend who claimed to hate politics and would say that he would never vote, but who had a change of heart. The friend is now passionate about promoting voting. “He came over to my house during the primaries with his mail-in ballots and said, ‘Alex, help me figure out how to do this, because I don’t know too much about the candidates,” Sutton said. “That makes me feel amazing.”

Sutton said one issue he feels strongly about is Amendment 3, which would allow independents to vote in primary elections. “When there are more people who have a say in our government, our government works better.”

If you are thinking about early voting, Progress Florida published the following guide on how to vote early.

  • To find your nearest early voting location, press here,.
  • Florida voters can vote early starting Oct. 19th in most counties and Oct. 24 everywhere. In-person early voting ends Saturday, Oct. 31 or Sunday Nov. 1, depending on your county.
  • Voters with a mail ballot can drop off their mail ballot at any early voting location.
  • You can only vote early at locations in the county in which you are registered to vote.
  • To vote early you must provide a valid photo ID including one with a signature. Valid IDs include a Florida driver’s license or ID card, U.S. passport, student, military, public assistance ID, and other IDs. You don’t need an ID to drop off a mail ballot.

The county has also established a website that lists waiting times for the voting sites.

Helen Acevedo is an FIU student majoring in broadcast media with a minor in political science and international relations. She is passionate about giving people a platform to tell their truths.

Ana Soler is majoring in journalism with a translation & interpretation certificate at Florida International University. She has a passion for writing and reporting in both English and Spanish. She is a lover of linguistics, pop culture, entertainment, traveling and learning about people of all walks of life.

Beatriz is a broadcast media major at Florida International University and is the managing editor for Caplin News. She aspires to become a documentarian.