With four days left before voters decide the winner of a heated contest for an open Senate seat in Miami, the Florida Legislative Black Caucus (FLBC) is accusing Gov. Rick Scott of suppressing the vote in District 40.
After power was knocked out in large parts of Miami-Dade County, Florida Democrats asked Scott to postpone the Sept. 26 special election between Democrat Annette Taddeo and Republican former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. Scott did not take up the request.
In a press release distributed Friday, the FLBC notes that many in the predominantly African American communities of Richmond Heights and West Perrine were still without power and struggling to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma.
“African American neighborhoods are disproportionately without power,” said state Senator Perry Thurston. “The Governor must extend the election to ensure that every constituency has an equal opportunity to vote. Refusing to extend this election while black voters are disproportionately without power is a blatant act of voter suppression to win a special election already suffering from low voter turnout. I am hopeful that the Governor will take this opportunity to advocate for the black community and ensure that our vote counts.”
So far, “there are no changes” for the Sept. 26 election, and early voting is still on at three public libraries, beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, according to Suzy Trutie, a deputy supervisor of elections for the county.
“All three early voting sites have power,” Trutie said in an email Thursday to the News Service of Florida.
J.C. Planas, a lawyer representing Diaz’s campaign, scoffed at the idea of postponing the election. Planas, whose home was without electricity this week, said he’s been in contact with elections officials — and visited the early voting sites — and “everything is ready to roll.”
Switching the election dates “would cause chaos,” Planas said.
“Everything’s fine. Everything’s working. There’s no reason not to start early voting this weekend,” he said.
Planas pointed out that Florida Power & Light has pledged to have electricity restored to the region by Sunday.
“If FPL doesn’t have power up by Sunday, then maybe we can have this discussion,” he said. “If there’s no power Sunday, there’s going to be mobs of angry people in the street and the election is going to be the last thing on people’s minds. We will have other issues.”
One member of the FLBC questioned why Scott has postponed elections in one part of the state, but not others.
“Postponing the election to give folks time to recover and rebuild is the right thing to do, but it didn’t matter to the Governor except in Ft. Myers and Cape Coral,” said state Senator Audrey Gibson. “Once again the Governor puts party before the people of Florida.”