News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Nov. 7, 2012: Kurt Shade, a Trinidad-born, Ohio resident, predicted the re-election of President Barack Obama, just moments before his state was called for the President.
Shade was among thousands of Caribbean voters who turned out at the polls in the battle ground state of Ohio Tuesday to cast his vote for Obama.
In a state where Caribbean nationals are simply pegged as part of the African American voting bloc in the United States, Shade, a university professor insists that “Caribbean nationals are playing a part in the election victories around the country,” including this major Presidential election.
Conservative estimates claim West Indian or Caribbean nationals account for about 10 percent of the 40 million foreign born nationals in the U.S. but 55.4 percent of this group are naturalized U.S. citizens. They overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party, making them also as important as the Latino bloc even though they are taken for granted and counted as simply part of the black voting bloc.
On Tuesday, however, many were busy making their votes count across the U.S., including in key battle ground states and states ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in the northeast even though they hardly showed up on the radar of the Presidential candidates.
In Florida, where nearly four of every ten immigrants in Florida were born in the Caribbean and call areas like Broward County, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Palm Beach Gardens, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Port Saint Lucie, West Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach, Miami Beach, Kissimmee, Fort Myers, Boca Raton and Sarasota, home, Guyanese-born Ron Bobb Semple, was among the voters in the key battle ground state.
Only Brooklyn, N.Y., has more West Indian residents than Broward County, FL. according to newly released U.S. Census figures. Broward has more Jamaicans — 100,000 conservatively according to the Census — than any other county nationwide.
The growth of West Indians have helped secure Broward’s status as a ”minority-majority” county — now one of 22 large U.S. counties where Hispanic and black residents outnumber white non-Hispanics and an area that is set to deliver Florida for Obama. Miami-Dade ranks third. Jamaican-Americans hold local office in Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderhill, Southwest Ranches, and Miramar. Miramar is the Little Caribbean
Bobb-Semple, an Internet radio host, said he voted on Friday, ahead of Tuesday, November 6th election, even though it meant standing in a long land and taking his time to ensure he did not mess up the paper ballot.
Xavier Murphy, founder of Jamaicans.com, voted early.
“When I went to vote last Sunday, every other person had to be Jamaican or Caribbean American in Pembrooke Pines, South Florida,” said Murphy. “The turn out was high and most Caribbeans I know have gone out … 98 percent of the folks I know have voted the top of the ticket – for Barack Obama.”
But he noted that: “As a group, Caribbeans have to aggressively make their votes count and strength as a bloc heard otherwise we will be dismissed as just part of the African American and Democrats,” added Murphy, and we have to aggressively start to do i,” he added.
Guenet Gittens Roberts, publisher of Caribbean American Passport, was seeing a lot of turn out but also long lines.
“I checked out a lot polling place, including Pine Hills, Orlando, where there is one machine and it’s a three hour wait, it’s ridiculous,” said Gittens Roberts.
But she noted that “Alot of Caribbeans did show up for early voting and many more are waiting in line.”
“They are becoming a big part of the voting bloc and they are going for the women and are actively working to get the vote out. It’s become a passion,” said the Caribbean American Passport.
Kayla Marie Clare, a Jamaican American, Queens resident who voted for the first time as a freshman in Virginia, is part of the much celebrated youth vote.
She was thrilled when NAN reached her last night.
“It’s a big celebration. I’m so very excited,” she said when reached shortly after Obama was declared the winner of a second term.
Clare, the daughter of Caribbean American advocate, Irwine Clare, said she stood in line for three hours to vote this morning and then helped mobilize other students to take the bus to the polling place to vote in the battleground state of Virginia.
Kayla Marie is looking forward to the next four years – to a better economy and getting more school grants. But the importance of the Caribbean voting bloc is not lost on her.
“I think the votes from the Caribbean American voting bloc is growing and making a big difference,” she added.
In New York, which is still recovering from Super Storm Sandy and where conservative Census estimates put the population of West Indians at 685,874 or three percent of the city’s population, many also endured long lines to vote.
Jamaican Irwine Clare, said he had to wait over an hour to vote in Rosedale, Queens and like Mayor Mike Bloomberg, complained of the voting process that includes a paper ballot then moving over to another machine to have it scanned before the process is completed.
Guyanese Chuck Mohan voted at ED 14 at 95th and Third Avenue in Manhattan and said at his polling place, three of the six scanners were down, making the wait about 30 minutes.
NAN’s photographer, Trinidad-born, Hayden Roger Celestin, also reported long lines in Brooklyn, but he said people, many of whom were Caribbean nationals, were staying put and waiting to vote at Polling station #B0085 at the Howard Apts, at 1655 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.
Shawn Walsh, producer of Whatz Up TV, was also among those who voted at the Howard Apts site and voted for Obama “all the way.”
“It was a long line, as long as 2008 but I waited about 10 minutes as I live in the building but I heard people complaining that they were waiting for two hours,” said Walsh, while expressing the hope that the President wins.
Jamaican Junior Forbes had voted in New York by absentee ballot when NAN caught up with him and was assiduously working on the ground in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to get out the vote for the Obama camp.
Others voted then took to social networks and email to urge other Caribbean nationals to make their votes count.
In New Jersey, despite enduring challenges from Sandy, Adelita Deepan, was among the Caribbean nationals voting in the area of Piscataway. “I went this morning and was out of there in about 25 minutes,” she said, even though there were changes in her regular polling place.
Jamaican Patrick Beckford, who also lives in storm-ravaged New Jersey, said most of the voters who showed up at his regular polling place had to walk a block away as it was changed because of the storm.
But “turn out at the time was very heavy at 6 a.m. in the morning and the overwhelming amount was African American.”
Zamal Sankar, founded Caribbean Americans for Obama, voted in Brooklyn and said he saw no lines but what he has noted is that the community turned out in large numbers.
“Our Caribbean Americans are giving a lot of money to the campaigns but without an organizational structure or demanding anything for Caribbean community and its why we are taken for granted now,” said Sankar, adding that the goal is to let it evolve into a national organization and ensure this group is taken more seriously as a bloc and more of local and state elected officials get involved.
Minna LaFortune of the Society For the Advancement of the Diaspora in New York, braved the chilly air in Brooklyn to vote Tuesday night. “The lines were long. I was in there about 45 minutes but the turnout was unprecedented, just like 2008,” said LaFortune, who voted on Ave. K in Brooklyn, along with a lot of other Caribbean nationals.
“Our community is plugged in,” she said.