Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado recently partnered with the Florida African American Caribbean Empowerment Alliance (F.A.C.E.) to call on residents to register to vote.
The call came as F.A.C.E. Chairman State Sen. Tony Hill launched a statewide effort to urge unregistered African-American voters to register and vote in the mid-term elections in November.
“We are pleased to assist in the democratic process,” Regalado said at a press conference Sept. 17 at City Hall in Dinner Key. “It is through voting that citizens have one of the strongest weapons to make their hopes and concerns count.”
Under the initiative, residents are able to register at one of four Neighborhood Enrichment Team centers located in Little Haiti, Model/Liberty City, Little Havana and Overtown.
The centers are staffed with F.A.C.E. representatives who assist residents with the registration process during regular working hours.
Eric Battles, F.A.C.E. political director for Miami-Dade and Broward counties, said in an interview the city formed the partnership after members of his group spoke to Regalado and his staff about statistics compiled over the last four years.
The figures, he said, showed only 13 percent of African Americans in Miami were registered to vote.
“The city understood our plight in trying to reach the urban community. These places have historically low registration numbers,” Battles said of the four neighborhoods targeted in the drive.
“Many people are afraid and don’t believe in the democratic process. But we want these residents to know that we support them and that the mayor is very interested in getting them to vote.”
F.A.C.E., whose state headquarters are located in Miami Lakes, was formed under the leadership of Hill to capitalize on the momentum of the 440,000 new African-American and West Indian registered voters who turned out for the 2008 Presidential election. The initiative urges them to vote this year and to attract new voters.
Acting NET Director Haydee Wheeler said the registration drive provides an opportunity for
residents to obtain information and be more educated about their community.
“N.E.T.’s uniqueness lies in the fact that it is rooted in the community and that our main goal is towards serving the community’s needs,” Wheeler said. “Our partnership with F.A.C.E. will allow our team to bring government closer to the citizens and stakeholders by providing personal assistance, information and education about other governmental services.”
The NET administrator for Little Haiti and Model/Liberty City, vonCarol Kinchens, said her offices are fully in support of the initiative and that the community must be a part of the change they want to see.
“It is so important for our residents to be educated on the voting process and fully understand that their voice can make a difference,” said Kinchens. “My staff will work along with F.A.C.E. to make sure we can register as many people to vote as possible.”
Battles said the four locations were selected due to their community’s low registration numbers, which he attributed to poverty and lack of information.
“These communities have a low income median and a high crime rate and there is a correlation between that,” Battles said. “Their conditions or quality of life may prevent them from knowing about the process or make them feel that their vote doesn’t count. We have people on staff who are bi-lingual so we can assist the residents no matter what community we go into and provide education.”
F.A.C.E. representatives will be onsite to answer questions about the voting process and provide technical assistance for registration and Election Day.
Battles said F.A.C.E. will provide 10 to 15 vans and hire drivers who will visit the NET locations on the day of the election to pick up residents, wait for them to vote and take them home.
“There are a lot of people who want to vote who are either elderly or have no transportation, but we are trying to eliminate any excuses for them not to vote because it is so vital to change in our community,” Battles said.
Meanwhile, Miami-Dade County has issued a reminder that the deadline to register to vote or change party affiliation for the Nov. 2 elections is Monday, Oct. 4.
Residents are eligible to vote if they are 18 years or older, are a U.S. citizen and are a permanent resident of Miami-Dade County.
Miami residents wishing to register to vote may visit one of the four Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices in Little Haiti, 6301 NE Second Ave., 305-960-4660; Liberty City and Model City, 1000 NW 62nd St., 305-795-2303; Little Havana, 1275 NW First St., 305-960-4650; and Overtown, 1490 NE Third Ave., 305-372-4550.
Miami-Dade residents may also register to vote at locations including public libraries; city, town and village halls; state public assistance agencies; Florida driver license offices and the Miami-Dade Elections Department main office, 2700 NW 87th Ave., or the Voter Information Center, 111 NW First St., first floor, west lobby.
For more information, call 3-1-1 or log on to miamidade.gov/elections.
Photo: Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado