MIAMI GARDENS — The mood was festive, the weather was perfect and the line was long, as the second week of early voting began.
To symbolize the 27 electoral votes up for grabs in Florida, on Oct. 27, a small group of people – including local politicians and a prominent celebrity – marched a few blocks from a Miami Gardens shopping plaza to the North Dade Regional Library, one of the busiest early voting sites in Miami-Dade County.
Leading the march were Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, former State Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Betty Ferguson, and acclaimed actress Alfre Woodard.
Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson rode along in a car due to a broken foot.
More than 1 million voters have gone to the polls early in Florida, prompting Gov. Charlie Crist to extend early voting from eight to 12 hours.
In one of the 27 “Marches for Change” across the state, about 100 marchers were escorted by several Miami Gardens police cruisers as passing cars honked their approval. Even employees of a nearby fast food restaurant got in on the action by yelling their support through the restaurant’s drive-through window.
The marchers were greeted at the library by a line of voters that snaked its way down the library’s exterior sidewalk. A drum line and dancers from Beacon Hill Academy, a private elementary school, provided the entertainment.
“Congratulations to everyone standing on line,” Woodard said through a megaphone to the line of early voters. “People are seeing on the national news that you’re standing in line as long as you are. Thank you for being role models. Right now you’re changing the course of history.’’
Woodard, who has had numerous roles in movies that include Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys, Beauty Shop, Take the Lead and Something New, also appeared in 20 episodes of the hit TV show “Desperate Housewives’’ in 2005 and 2006 as Betty Applewhite, the only black woman on the block.
Woodard, who supports Sen. Barack Obama for president, encouraged the voters on Monday to help 10 other people vote after casting their own ballots.
“The lines will be long but the rewards will be great,” she told them.
Ferguson emphasized the message.
“Early voting is still very important,’’ she said. “We don’t want people to be fooled by the high numbers. There are still a lot of people that have not voted.”
Woodard echoed the sentiment. She told the South Florida Times that being registered to vote is not enough.
“Last election John Kerry lost Florida by 380,000 votes and there were 600,000 African Americans registered to vote [that] did not show up. Obviously if we could’ve gotten those people to show up we would not have had eight years of Bush,’’ Woodard said. “The majority of those people who did not show up were from South Florida. We want people to understand why every single vote counts. We can’t afford to let that man (Sen. John McCain) anywhere near the White House.”
Jordan placed the blame for the long lines on Crist and the majority GOP legislature.
“The long lines…have more to do with the Republican-led Legislature cutting back the voting hours and how long the precincts can stay open,” Jordan said.
Crist on Tuesday extended early voting hours across the state. Voting sites will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. weekdays through Friday, and a total of 12 hours this weekend. In
Miami-Dade, the weekend voting hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m Sunday. In Broward, the weekend hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The executive order followed record early voting turnout that contributed to long lines at polling sites.
Jordan said she was pleased with the way her constituents were handling the long waits.
“It has not discouraged the people. They are being polite with one another. They are being respectful of the seniors,’’ she said.
Gibson, who cast her ballot for Sen. Barack Obama on Monday, said of the long lines, “I am so happy that we are showing up at the polls to vote.”
Opa-locka Mayor Joseph Kelly marched with his 76-year old mother.
“It’s a movement, an excitement,” Kelly said, explaining that many of the seniors at the church he pastors have already cast absentee ballots. “I’m going to early vote this Wednesday.”
Ferguson said she is planning to cast her ballot on Sunday, Nov. 2, the last day of early voting.
“I’m bringing up the rear intentionally. On the last day of early voting…I will be right here at the North Dade Regional Library from 1 o’clock to 5 o’clock and longer if the lines are that long, because I want people to know this is the last day and we still need you to line up and vote and stay in that line for how ever long it takes,’’ she said.
Wendella James is sure of an Obama victory. The 35-year resident of Miami Gardens said the election is “beyond any one of us.”
James, who declined to give his age, referred to himself as “a senior citizen,” and said, “This is something from God. This is a divine action. Mr. Obama really doesn’t have any control because he has been selected by God for this mission.”
Photo: Alfre Woodard
EARLY VOTING SITES
North Dade Regional Library
2455 NW 183rd Street
Model City Library (at the Caleb Center)
2211 NW 54th Street
Miami Lakes Public Library
6699 Windmill Gate Road
John F Kennedy Library
190 West 49th Street
Elections Department (SOE Main Office)
2700 NW 87th Avenue
West Miami – City Hall
(2nd Floor Commission Chambers)
901 SW 62nd Avenue
West Kendall Regional Library
10201 Hammocks Blvd.
Kendall Branch Library
9101 SW 97th Avenue
West Dade Regional Library
9445 SW 24th Street
404 West Palm Drive
Aventura Government Center
(2nd Floor Commission Area)
19200 West Country Club Drive
North Miami Public Library
835 NE 132nd Street
Lemon City Library (Reading Room)
430 NE 61st Street
North Shore Branch Library
7501 Collins Avenue
Coral Reef Library
9211 SW 152nd Street
(Stephen P. Clark Center – Lobby)
111 NW 1st Street
City of Miami – City Hall
3500 Pan American Drive
(Entrance is located at the northeast side of the building, ADA entrance is through the front door of City Hall)
Coral Gables Library
3443 Segovia Street
Miami Beach City Hall (3rd Floor)
1700 Convention Center Drive
South Dade Regional Library
10750 SW 211th Street
North Regional Library/BCC
1100 Coconut Creek Boulevard
Coconut Creek, 33066
Northwest Regional Library
3151 University Drive,
Coral Springs, 33065
Davie/Cooper City Branch Library
4600 SW 82 Avenue,
North Regional Satellite Courthouse
1600 W. Hillsboro Boulevard, Room 170
Deerfield Beach, 33442
African-American Research Library
2650 Sistrunk Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale, 33311
Fort Lauderdale Branch Library/Art Serve
1350 E. Sunrise Boulevard, Room 130
Fort Lauderdale, 33304
Fort Lauderdale Main Library
100 S. Andrews Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, 33301
Hallandale Beach City Hall
400 S. Federal Highway
Hallandale Beach, 33009
Hollywood Branch Library
2600 Hollywood Boulevard
Supervisor of Elections at Lauderhill Mall
1501 N.W. 40 Avenue
Miramar City Hall
2300 Civic Center Place
6600 N. University Drive
Southwest Regional Library
16835 Sheridan Street
Pembroke Pines, 33331
West Regional Library
8601 W. Broward Boulevard
Pompano Beach Library
1213 E. Atlantic Boulevard
Pompano Beach, 33060
Tamarac Branch Library
8701 W. Commercial Boulevard
Weston Branch Library
4205 Bonaventure Boulevard