MIAMI — Steve Johnson was driving through his Liberty City neighborhood when he noticed a group of people registering to vote. He decided to stop so he could update his voter information.
“I wasn’t going to be turned away from the polls or have my ballot held back and risk losing my voice in this election because I failed to do something simple,” Johnson said afterwards.
Liberty City resident Annette Kerney also needed to update her information. “This election is too important to have trouble when you are trying to vote,” she said. “If your driver’s license does not match your voting card, well, that’s the kind of luck I don’t need.”
ohnson and Kerney took advantage of the “Phirst Phamily” Voter Registration Blitz on Saturday organized by Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and Beta Beta Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. The campaign started at Walgreen’s Pharmacy, 6200 N.W. Seventh Avenue in Liberty City.
Throughout the day, members of both Greek organizations visited barbershops and beauty salons in parts of Miami-Dade County to reach residents eligible to vote or in need of updating their voter information.
“We have a history of being involved in voter registration but this is the first year we have done it in this way, focusing on beauty salons and barbershops,” said Andrea Robinson, co-chairwoman of AKA’s civic engagement committee.
The group is nonpartisan, she said. “We don’t tell people how to vote or who to vote for. We just get them registered or updated.”
The number of unregistered voters and the number of registered voters who don’t vote do not add up, Robinson said.
“It makes no sense to complain about the politicians when you pass on the opportunity to select them,” she said. “We don’t want to wake up on Nov. 7 and be surprised.”
Peter Barnes, 49, of Opa-locka said that he had not voted in years because “my voice was nothing anyone wanted to hear.”
“I felt that blacks were left out of the process,” Barnes said. “I mean, we go to the polls and there is always a hold-up. Your ID isn’t good enough if you have moved. If you’ve been arrested, they turn you away. And they don’t make it easy for the seniors to get there either.”
According to Anderson Elridge, president of Beta Beta Lamda, Miami Chapter, a felon’s rights may be restored prior to voting. “You can still vote as long as you hold a state of Florida ID and a voter registration card, but not if you have an open case,” he said.
“The ballot will be accepted but provisional until verified.”
Voting is a constitutional right, Elridge said, adding,
“And not all people who have had altercations with the law are disqualified from participating in the process.”
Ann White, who volunteered for the registration campaign, said that she is saddened “that people still feel their votes do not make a difference. This is an important election and people just need to be there.”
Barnes, who updated his information, said that he feels “more educated and sure about the system” and plans to vote in November.
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net
* Pictured above Vanessa Byers, left, and Anderson Elridge