MIAMI — When Veronique Bentley was a no-show at a Barack Obama victory party Tuesday night, a friend called her to find out what happened.
“She was still standing in line waiting to vote,” said Phyllis Tynes-Saunders, who hosted the celebration at her Coral Gables home. Bentley, she said, was waiting with scores of other voters at a church polling station in Princeton, a South Miami-Dade community.
“We talked to her way after 7 o’clock and she was still in line when the news was announced that Obama had won the national election,” said Tynes-Saunders, a Miami-Dade County government administrator.
“She told us lots of volunteers from the president’s Florida campaign were giving them pizza, fruit and water, encouraging them to stay in line.
She didn’t give up even after the election was called for Obama” around 11:18 p.m., Tynes-Saunders added. “She said she was going to stay in line to help deliver the Florida vote and ‘put the icing on the cake’ for Obama.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Miami-Dade elections officials were still counting absentee ballots to determine if the president would keep his close lead over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
The long lines angered but encouraged U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a South Florida Democrat.
“I was so thrilled to see the lines of African Americans not giving up,” said Wilson, whose district includes some southern sections of Broward County and eastern portions of Miami-Dade County.
Wilson said a lengthy ballot filled with confusing amendments authored by the Republican-dominated Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott were an intentional ploy to keep African Americans from coming out to vote.
“It’s outrageous,” said Wilson, who predicted on the evening before Election Day that Obama would win.
“Republicans will be taught a lesson,” Wilson said. “They will see that all they tried to do, all the money they spent, did not work.”
South Florida attorney Marlon Hill said he too was confident that Obama would be re-elected.
“When Florida is finally counted, the president will be thankful that brown and black people turned out in significant numbers in South and Central Florida,” said Hill, co-chair of the Florida Finance committee for the Obama Victory Fund in Miami.
The GOP’s campaign tactics played a role in bringing out the minority vote, Hill said. “Black people have a level of self-respect that we demonstrate whenever we know that we are being disrespected,” he said.
The disrespect, he added, included restraints or the perception of a restraint on voting rights, and disrespect of the president’s race and heritage. He also cited negative campaign signs on lawns in South Florida with the message written in bold, white letters on a black background: “Fire Obama.”
“Those are all visual and theatrical tricks, part of the American political theater,” Hill said. “Yard signs don’t vote; people do.”
For a while, Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said, she did not know if what she called the Legislature’s voter suppression laws would have a negative impact on voter turnout.
“We were all a little nervous with the way things had been happening, with them cutting the days down for early voting,” she said.
Attorney Levi Williams, who served as the Broward County chairman for Scott’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, complimented Democrats on their ability to get out the vote for Obama.
“I think the preliminary data show that Democrats did an exceptional job in galvanizing black and brown voters in this country,” Williams said. Minority participation in the Democratic Party victory should stimulate the GOP to improve its outreach to blacks, he added
“For the Republican Party to move forward in a successful manner, it will have to learn how to bring in folks and provide incentives for the black and brown people,” Williams said. “I think it is incumbent on the party to identify more minorities of color that can compete for various position of influence in our communities.”
The Rev. O'Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, said he wished the outcome had favored Romney, even though Romney did not have his support during the Republican
“I didn’t want Romney to be the front-runner,” said Dozier, who initially supported former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. “I did not think that Romney would be strong enough against Obama.”
Under Obama, black people “will be in deep trouble,” Dozier said.
“When you have 23 percent unemployment among blacks, that is horrible. If Obama had wanted to help black people, he had two years when he was first elected to do that. He could have passed any initiative to help black people or any kind of people.
But he failed to do that. Now he will be a lame-duck president and Congress will remain at a standstill because Obama will continue with his war on wealth and will continue to ask those who are in the upper 1 percent category to pay more taxes.”
“He is a re-elected president, not a lame duck,” countered James Drayton, president of the Together We Stand Democratic Club, an African-American political group he helped organize in 2007 in West Palm Beach. "If he had lost, he would have been a lame duck,” Drayton continued. “But now he has a very strong hand.”
Hill said Congress, often at odds with the president on crucial legislation, will have to bone up during Obama’s second term.
“My expectation is that they’d better find a way to seek common ground,” Hill said referring to the congress and the president.
His shopping list: “improving the economy, finally achieving comprehensive immigration reform, and executing the promise of affordable health care for all and restoring our role in the world.”
If it does not happen, the American people will not stand for it, Hill said.
“Folks do not stand in line for six hours to pass the time without any expectations of seeing results from our elected leaders,” he said.