Tuesday, November 4, 2008

FLORIDA VOTER STORY: Direct Action Gets The Vote

Joseph Phelan with the Miami Workers Center shares his experience as a community vote defender:

A man with sun browned skin and rough hands walks out of the the polling place at de Hostos Community Center in Wynwood, smiling and a gathered crowd erupts into cheers. He had just voted, with a little help from community vote defenders.

(l-r) Ramos, Lassalle, Davalia, happy after a successfully protecting the vote

Just minutes earlier he had been locked out of the electoral process.

"We said 'hi' as he walked into the poll," explained Osvaldo Ramos, a Take Back the Vote canvasser. "Then a little while later he came back out."

"They wouldn't let him vote," chimed in Amelia Davilia, another TBV canvasser.

The man, Emilio Lassalle Jr., didn't have ID.

"I didn't know I needed ID. I'm Puerto Rican. I am my ID," Lassalle said later.

"We talked to him about his rights and told him he was entitled to cast a provisional ballot. So he went back in," said Ramos.

"This time when he came out he had tears on his cheeks. He was so frustrated and humiliated," added Davilia.

The canvassers jumped into action and called the TBV headquarters to report the problem. A team of thirty voter defenders piled into the "Party Truck," an old bread truck plastered with banners, pumping out funk and hip hop on a generator powered sound system.

"When we got here we parked the truck blasted the music, got out the bull horns and started chanting," said Tony Romano, organizing director with the Miami Workers Center. "it got the poll workers attention. They told us 'No ID, no vote.' But we know that is illegal so we kept on pushing, kept on drawing attention to the situation."

Eventually, Lassalle, escorted by a TBV vote defender, was allowed back into the poll to cast his provisional ballot.

"I lost my wallet. What was I supposed to do?" Lassalle asks nobody, and everybody. "If they didn't let me vote I would never have voted again. I was fed up with it."

After posing for a few pictures with the smiling Lassalle, the vote defenders piled into the "Party Truck", cranked up some James Brown, and rolled into the darkening night, ready to defend the right to vote.

Oh and check out this video featuring Darville Williams, an intern at the Miami Workers Center on how more work needs to be done after the elections:

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