Live Election Coverage: Trump or No, South Floridians See Contest of "Good Vs. Evil"
Gun control voters; School funding and anti-development voters; Greyhound voters and red tide voters. With 12 constitutional Amendments and countless local referenda on the ballot, South Florida voters had plenty of ways to frame their motivations this Election Day. Perhaps none, though, was as pronounced as the impulse to vote for or against a president who is still two years from a potential second term.
President Trump hasn’t shied from inserting his brand black-and-white politics as far down the ballot as he can reach. Many voters, in turn, took Florida’s gubernatorial race and the bid for a Senate seat that could decide the balance of power in Washington as a referendum on his vision of the country.
Aside from pockets of confusion about who could vote in precincts that served as early voting locations, voting across the region was orderly and uneventful. One exception was in Deerfield Beach, where election administrators had moved a polling site to a building within a gated community. Voters complained that security guards at the community’s entrance were improperly asking them for ID.
Miami 6:07 PM
When voters from other neighborhoods showed up at the Lemon City Library today thinking early voting sites remained open to people registered anywhere in the county, Michael Pearson was there waiting. In a maroon hatchback with an Andrew Gillum poster on the driver’s side door, Pearson ferried people anywhere they needed to go to cast a valid ballot, from the time the polls opened at 7 AM until….
Pearson was part of a group of volunteers, along with Julie Becker, who re-directed more than 100 voters to the right polling place over the course of the day.
Key West 5:47 PM
Jennifer Castillo and Stacy Ryan are moms for Teri, but they are daughters for Teri, too: She's their mom. If Teri Johnston is elected mayor of Key West on Tuesday, she will be Florida's first openly lesbian mayor. ""We're so proud," said Ryan, who lives on Sugarloaf Key and has two kids in the Monroe County school system. "We love our moms and they have raised us to love everyone and look at everything with an open mind."
In a time unusually intense polarization, says Miami Beach resident Monica Acevedo. "If you don’t go [vote], you’d have to come up with a huge excuse.”
Credit Alicia Zuckerman / WLRN News
Miami Beach 5:27 p.m.
Midterms aren't what they used to be.
"Everyone is focused on it, so if you don’t go, it’s like -- pretty bad. It’s a big relief once you [vote] and you feel better, ” says Monica Acevedo, who voted at the precinct in Flamingo Park in South Beach this afternoon. She works in real estate and has lived in the neighborhood for about 15 years. “I can’t imagine anyone right now, talking to their friends, and their friends ask them, ‘Hey, did you go vote?’ And they go ‘no.’ Right now we’re so polarized, that people would be shocked if you said no. They’d think, ‘What is wrong with you?’ It wasn’t like that before … Before it was - eh, who cares? It’s the midterms.”
WLRN 5:00 p.m.
Missed Sundial? It's not to late to hear the show and get a recap of WLRN's election day reporting here.
Miami Beach 4:45
More than half of Miami-Dade county is foreign-born, and the immigrant electorate often seems split between Democratic-leaning voters who see echoes of their own lives in the struggles of more recent immigrants, and those, like many of Miami’s Cuban-American politicians, whose loyalty to the Republican Party is shaped by deep mistrust of anything that can be called “socialism” or "communism.”
In North Beach, two women in their sixties were on opposite sides of this divide: "Believe me, I know socialism, says Tatyana, a Russian immigrant who declined to give her last name. “All my heart and my mind now is with Republicans."
Olga Pujol, who came to the United States from Medellin, Colombia in 1981, says she feels a responsibility to leave a legacy for her grandchildren: “Everything Trump says is a negative message that impacts the community — the immigrant community.”
She sees Democrats like Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson as candidates with empathy for vulnerable groups “They wouldn’t go to Puerto Rico and throw paper towels to people--people who are dying," she says.
Hialeah 3:55 p.m.
Across the parking lot of the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah, President Trump was watching voters from a podium. Or was he? Actually, it was a life-size cutout of the president held by Julio Martínez, former city commissioner and mayor.
Martínez was part of a group of Republicans that have been at the Library for the last 12 days. "In 30 years I haven’t seen so many voters. Not even in 2016,” Martinez said in Spanish.
For Martínez and his group, the 2018 midterms are indeed a referendum on the Trump presidency. “Six more years, whether you like it or not,” cheered Roberto Giraldo. “We don’t want communism here.”
Kendall 3:42 p.m.
In Florida's 26th congressional district, where the big contest is a tight race between incumbent Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an Ecuadorian immigrant, the Latino vote (70 percent of the electorate in that district) will be decisive. And it has changed dramatically in recent years, from predominantly Cuban Republican to an increasingly non-Cuban and Democratic demographic.
One of the GOP stalwarts today was commercial painter Alberto Hernandez, a Cuban who came here 18 years ago after he says he spent time in prison for challenging communist authority on the island. He voted a straight Republican ticket because "this is the greatest country in the world and I don't like to hear Democrats tell lies about it."
Hernandez celebrated his vote with a colada at the Rinconcito Latino restaurant in Kendall, sporting a Trump hat - and a big picture of President Trump on the side of his painting company pickup.
But down SW 40th St from the Rinconcito Latino, at a voting precinct inside the Reception Palace Ballroom, Venezuelan-American microbiologist Sergio Zubizarrata says he voted Democrat. He also said the No. 1 issue he took into the booth was student debt. The University of Florida grad is carrying about $60,000 of it, and "while I hear Democratic candidates talk about addressing it, I do not hear similar remarks from the Republicans, or at least not as enthusiastically. It doesn't seem like it's much of a priority for them." Zubizarrata, who is 27 and came to Miami 14 years ago, also agreed his Kendall community has become less Cuban and more Democrat over the past decade.
North Miami 2:59 p.m.
The nonpartisan national coalition Election Protection is out at polling locations across South Florida to make sure people know their rights as they file in to cast their ballots.
Jeanne Baker, with the ACLU's Miami chapter, was one of the volunteers at the Haitian Evangelical Baptist Church in North Miami. "Somebody might have sent in for an absentee ballot and not received the ballot," she says. Now, that voter will want to know, "Can they vote a regular ballot at the polls?" As long as they haven't already submitted an absentee ballot, she says, the answer is 'Yes.'
"And it’s that kind of issue that comes up a lot and that our election protection volunteers are able to help," Baker says.
Parkland 2:49 p.m.
Not everyone in Parkland is gun control voter in 2018: "I just wish that would all go away," says Nick Cassidy, of the microscopic focus on guns that has kept Parkland in the news since a school shooting here which killed 17 people in February.
But Krista Kirby is: she brought her two children, age 4 and 7, with her to vote at the West Glades Middle School Gym,next door to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. "I want my children to be safe when they go to school," she says.
"Nothing else is as important," says Justine Chiricosta. For her too, gun safety has come front and center this year. "I'm concerned about the safety of our children," she says, "And in the past I probably would have voted differently."
Drive-a-voter 2:20 p.m.
Tremaine Jones participated in the March for Black Women in Miami this weekend and he says it inspired him to do more on election day than just vote.
Jones has been offering rides on social media to anyone who needs to get to a polling location in Miami-Dade and Broward. When WLRN reached him he was on his way to drop someone off to vote in Coconut Creek.
"I just think it’s important that we eliminate as many barriers as possible to get people out, to get people engaged and to really be a part of the change they want to see through voting," he said.
Jones says his gas tank is full and he’ll be on-call until the polls close.
2:00 p.m. : Field Roundup
WLRN reporters have been out and about since before polls opened today, bringing you coverage from Tallahassee to the Florida Keys. Check out a few of our election-day stories:
In partnership with WJCT, Jessica Bakeman has this look at gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis as each headed to the polls.
Danny Rivero reports that some voters in Deerfield Beach have had trouble even getting to the entrance of a polling station that was recently relocated inside a private gated community because security guards are asking for ID.
In a tight race for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Caitie Switalski brings us this dispatch on Fort Lauderdale attorney and Democratic candidate Nikki Fried, who started the day off voting with her father.
1:30 p.m. Miami Beach
Voters reported slow-and-steady turnout and smooth execution at precincts around Miami Beach. “I’m usually an early voter, but I wanted the experience of voting on Election Day," said Prashant Thakker, who ranked environmental issues as one of his top priorities, outside the polling station in Flamingo Park. "It’s exciting to vote on THE day. I’m trying to turn the country blue.”
“I’m new, but I count,” says Kathy Tejada, who moved here from New York 2 years ago. An Uber driver and the child of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Tejada's priorities are immigration healthcare and crime. Even driving 15 hours a day, she says, paying for healthcare in Florida can be a squeeze.
Miramar 1:08 p.m.
There's no shortage of referenda on the ballot across Florida today, and in Miramar, the slate of proposed constitutional amendments were the number one motivation for voters like Brenda Lopez. She says a television ad that emphasized the industry's cruelty to animals convinced her to support a ban on Greyhound racing in Florida. She also deeply cares about investing more in Florida schools and raising teacher salaries. “I think it’s really unfortunate that the people who really champion our society don’t get the recognition for it. Our priorities are all over the place, and they’re not where they should be.”
For Chrystina Smith, whose brother has a felony record, Amendment 4 is the leading issue on the ballot: “A lot of people do change, and if you just give them a chance, you’ll probably be able to see it." She said he hopes to wake up Wednesday and learn that her brother's right to vote has been restored.
Deschanel Russell, a permanent resident who is still one year away from her right to vote, is doing her part as a campaign volunteer for Andrew Gillum at Fairway Elementary School in Miramar.“I am a young black woman, so I am going to support a young black man," she said.
West Perrine - 12:22 p.m.
It was a quiet morning at Robert Russa Moton Elementary School in West Perrine, a historic black community in South Dade. By one measure, local candidates and campaigns haven't paid much attention to this precinct: not a single candidate sign was posted in front. The only exception is the campaign for Amendment 4, which would restore voting rights to more than 1.5 million Floridians with a past felony conviction, and had several organizers and Yes on Amendment 4 signs posted out front. An Amendment 4 worker from the community who was not authorized to speak to media told WLRN the issue of voter disenfranchisement is an "epidemic" in West Perrine. "If half the people can't vote here, no wonder nobody pays us no mind," she said.
Kendall 11:57 a.m.
Elmehdi Elaadil just recently bought a house across the street from Devon Aire Park, where he voted this morning. Elaadil says Trump's presidency has made representation a big issue for him in this election. As a registered Democrat, he believes Trump's rhetoric has made Florida Democrats "realize how important our voices are out there now that things are in the limelight."
Miami 11:21 a.m.
At Legion Park on Miami's Upper East Side, several voters said they came out to elect people who will challenge the direction the U.S. has taken under President Trump.
Originally from Haiti, Evelyn Cadet has lived in the Miami area for 50 years. "It's like I'm in a foreign country from my foreign country," she said. "We have a president for some parts of the United States. The president should be one for all. Republican or Democrat, it's one for all."
Izak Hickcox, a Miami resident, said the Trump presidency has made him feel America is "angrier, more unstable" than before the 2016 election. He said for him, the midterms are basically a chance for damage control. "I'm not super hopeful of any particular outcome," Hickcox said, "other than to hopefully not do anything that would further cement whatever decisions are made today."
Both Hickcox and Cadet said they support Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Florida governor.
There weren't any lines, but a steady trickle of voters made their way into the park's community center. Poll workers said about 200 people had voted by 10:15 a.m. -- which they said was a high turnout compared with previous midterms.
-- Kate Stein
Key West 11:13 a.m.
Ryan Saunders, 20, of Key West is a student at Florida Keys Community College. This was his first time voting, though he was eligible in 2016.
What got him out this time? "My dad," he said. His dad is former Democratic state Rep. Ron Saunders.
He was motivated by the statewide races, he said, mostly "getting Rick Scott out," and keeping Ron DeSantis from winning the gubernatorial election.
And he was interested in some of the amendments, especially Amendment 4. "I think the most important one was giving people with felonies the right to vote. No one should be punished their whole life if they already did their time."
-- Nan Klingener
Richmond Heights 11:06 a.m.
Members of the Metro Dade Firefighters’ union passing out voting guides at Coral Reef Library in Richmond Heights urged voters to split their tickets and support a mix of Democrats and Republican incumbents on Tuesday.
A long line that formed by 6 am cleared by midmorning, though many people who showed up to vote at the Coral Reef Library were told they were at the wrong precinct. As an early voting location, voters from many precincts cast ballots at the library during the two weeks before the election. Some people were under the impression they could still vote at those locations on Election Day no matter where they're registered. That's not the case.
9:49 a.m. Miami
"Change." That's what 56 year old Miamian Barbara Martinez said brought her to the polls today, and kept her waiting for an hour at Cameron House in Edgewater. As an employee of the circuit court system with 17 years in a front row seat to the criminal justice system, Martinez said she supports Amendment 4, which would restore the right to vote to more than 1.5 million Floridians with past felony convictions. "Some of them are a victim of circumstances, and if they've done what they've done, and they've paid for it, and don'thave any recurring issues, then they should be allowed to vote like everyone else," Martinez said.
9:44 a.m. Hollywood
"If I wake up tomorrow and Nelson doesn't win, Gillum doesn't Win, I think I'll get a heart attack," said Democrat Simon Isaac, shortly after voting at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood. Isaac moved to the US from Dominica in 1997. As a U.S. citizen who pays taxes and pushes people to vote, he says he didn’t come here to raise his kids under a disrespectful president who "constantly lies." "This country was built on immigrants, we all came from a different place, and we all make America great. And America was already great. And when you hear the president talking about this nonsense, and the caravan, that’s not nice. It takes two hands to clap. We need each other, in order to have a united nation.”
“I’m passionate about everything against Trump—I hope you’re not a Trump lover, said Terrance Palmer, an environmental engineer who showed up to vote at 8 am on his day off. "I wish my little child could vote. I’m just gonna do what I have to do, you know. Everyone should get out and vote.”
8:18 a.m. Miami
Voters at the Cameron House in Edgewater waited for an hour or more under a steady drizzle in the first part of the day.
-- Chris Remington
7:46 a.m. Boca Raton
Open polls and no lines reported at the Mae Volen Senior Center in Boca Raton, Palm Beach.
-- Farrar Hudkins
7:19 a.m. Palmetto Bay
Voters woke up early to be the first ones at poll station 810 in Palmetto Bay. A short line of eight people waited patiently until the center was open.
-- Tim Padgett
7:12 a.m. Shenandoah Library
Tim Wise, 44, was the first person in line at this precinct. It took him less than 10 minutes to vote. "I don't do mail-in ballot because I like showing up on election day," he said.
"It's my duty to come and cast my vote and make a difference," said Wise. "We live in very negative times."
Meanwhile, poll worker Earnshia Ray was busy explaining voters that showed up that polling stations 579 and 573 had been moved to other locations. "I am telling them as soon as they walk by but most don't hear me and still go inside," she said.
Only polls 571 and 667 are voting inside the Shenandoah Library. Poll 579 has been moved to Silver Bluff Elementary and 573 to another building in Shenandoah Park, around the corner from the Library.
-- Teresa Frontado
6:55 a.m Shenandoah Library
Five minutes before the opening of the polls, six people stood already in line outside the Shenandoah Library waiting to cast their vote.
Barbara Gerriz, 70, was among those waiting. She requested a mail-in ballot and sent it, but she said she received a text last night saying it hasn't been received. "The text said they didn't get it, so I am here today to vote," she said.
-- Teresa Frontado