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South Florida Early Voting Lines: Cesarean Sections, Nonagenarians and Sam Cooke



MIAMI --- (As told to the correspondent by husband-and-wife Obama Volunteers Pierina and Aramis in the Coral Gables office)

The last early voting hours for Miami-Dade County were 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday and 1:00 to 5:00 pm Sunday. "You could feel the hope in the votes," according to an Obama volunteer named Aramis. At the Model City Library, early voters were predominantly Haitian immigrants and African Americans, with a sprinkling of Hispanics. Among the polite crowd of all ages, there were many grandmothers with lots of grandchildren. From time to time, the poll workers would pull the most elderly people and bring them to the front of the line, as a courtesy. While voters waited up to three hours for the number on their admission ticket to be called, everyone displayed mutual respect, calmness and an uncommon patience.

People stood for hours in the pouring rain, to vote. The line curved along four long, downtown city blocks. According to the volunteers who experienced it, it was like something out of a movie. Human drama unfolded in the line as the rain gave way to sunny skies, and later to dusk and darkness.

One woman had just given birth through Cesarean section at a nearby hospital. Instead of going home, her husband drove his wife and their new baby directly from the hospital to the Library, just so she could vote on the last day of early voting. She knew she couldn't come on Tuesday, so she stood in that line, just so that she could vote for Barack Obama. Her tiny, newborn baby stayed in the car with her husband; this woman was still wearing slippers from her hospital stay. She could barely walk in her condition, yet she waited stoically at the Model City Library to vote.

Late in the day, a young man played music on a boom box. Slowly from the speakers came the strains of Sam Cooke's 1963 song, "A Change is Gonna Come" and the scene became an indelible memory, a dreamlike scene from a film still to be produced.

As the song blasted on speakers in the background, an old woman, well in her 90s and using a walker, slowly approached the line, dressed in her Sunday best (although it was only Saturday): a brightly-colored, flowered polyester dress with big shoulder pads, earrings and a pocketbook. She was one of the last people trying to get in line before the five o'clock cutoff time. Entering the library required ascending a long, inclined wheelchair ramp. The old woman had brought two people to accompany her, perhaps her grandchildren or her great-grandchildren. One walked on each side and one behind her, in case she fell or needed assistance. She walked slowly and methodically up the ramp to take her place in line, as the lyrics to the Sam Cooke song echoed off the concrete walls of the library courtyard.

As a sign of her advanced years and the effects of osteoporosis, her body was folded over, almost in a 90-degree angle. Yet she was focused, looking straight ahead, as though she wasn't about to take her eyes off the prize. The way she was walking, stoically, steadfast and with purpose, it was as though she was holding her head up high. Even though her body was stooped over, her spirit was in the clouds. With this vote, she would make history. Slowly, step-by-step, she walked toward the future; yes, after a long, long time, a change was coming.