barbara-howard_web.jpgOn Saturday, Oct. 27, thousands of black voters went to the polls on the first day of early voting. The Miami Herald reported that 22,625 waited up to five and a half hours to vote that day just in Miami Dade County.

Thousands more voted on Sunday in the “Souls to the Polls” initiative where preachers shuttled black churchgoers to vote after church.   The Rev. Al Sharpton even came to Opa-locka to help organize caravans to the polls.

But these same groups of organizers charged the Republican-led Legislature with voter suppression because the lawmakers shortened the early voting schedule.  From the looks of the first two days of early voting, though, it doesn’t seem like any votes were suppressed.

Meanwhile, some of these same people joined the League of Women Voters, the Democratic Legislative Caucus and other liberal organizations in advising the voters to vote no on all of the constitutional amendments.

They took them to the polls and told them how to vote. 

Nothing strange about that in the black communities across the country, just status quo, just standard operating procedure.

As the Florida State chair of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), I developed a voter information sheet, a “cheat sheet,” if you will, that analyzed the proposed constitutional amendments, the Miami-Dade School Board bond issue and the proposed Miami-Dade County charter amendments, took the legalese out and put them in layman’s terms so everyday people could understand what they were asked to vote for.

The information sheet was distributed at my church on Sunday.  But as I spoke to some of the church members, I discovered they had been told to vote no on all 11 constitutional amendments. 

While CORE never told anyone how to vote, we have to wonder why someone would tell voters to reject all the amendments.

One of the ladies, who like me belongs to the Seniors’ Ministry, was extremely upset when she discovered that when she rejected all the amendments she had voted against helping herself.

Now there may be some debate over Amendment 1 which would make it illegal to force anyone to purchase health insurance.

This is an effort to invalidate the mandates of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.”  One could see how that would cause trepidation among liberal organizations.

But let’s look at some of the others which grant homestead tax exemptions. 

Amendment 2 grants tax relief to “wounded warriors” disabled in the line of duty, while Amendment 9 grants total or partial relief to spouses of military veterans and first responders, such as police officers and firefighters, who have died in the line of duty.

Amendment 11 grants homestead tax relief to low-income senior citizens, age 65 and older, who have lived in their homes for at least 25 years after they bought them and their value is less than $250,000.

Why would anyone want to say no to wounded warriors, spouses of
deceased veterans and first responders and low-income seniors? I am as completely confused by that decision as I am about the next two amendments.

Amendment 6 would no longer use tax dollars for abortions and would require that minor girls get their parents’ permission to have an abortion. 

Amendment 8 would allow churches and religious organizations to get tax dollars. Saying no to both amendments would give tax dollars for abortions but not to churches.  Again I am confused and a little disappointed by this.

Is it because the amendments came from a Republican Legislature?  If so, why hurt those who liberals say they always help?

For those who have accused Republicans of wanting senior citizens to “die quickly,” not wanting to grant tax deductions to those who are low-income is just mind-boggling.

I guess there are no black wounded warriors or black spouses of dead military or firefighters killed while serving their country and certainly not any black low-income seniors worthy of tax relief while we spend their tax dollars on abortions instead of churches.

I cannot wrap my head around that logic.  I guess we are not our brother’s keepers, after all.

So what did preachers accomplish during early voting and “Souls to the Polls” day, except to vote for Obama?

Barbara Howard is Florida State chairwoman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Trade & Travel goodwill ambassador to Kenya. She may be reached at