Church groups bus congregants to early voting sites
Rev. Al Sharpton encouraging Florida churches to head to the polls
The Reverend Al Sharpton urged congregants at The New Birth Baptist Church to take advantage of early voting. His sermon was part of a statewide campaign to bus African Americans from church to early voting sites.
Historically, black churches vote in groups on the Sunday before election day.
"What we are doing here is preserving what has always been done. The black church has been the cutting edge of voting and Civil Rights in the country," said Rev. Sharpton.
State lawmakers shortened the number of early voting days from 14 to eight this year. The decision has drawn the ire of church leaders who say lawmakers are trying to suppress minorities at the polls.
Early voting ends on Saturday, November 3.
"It is the place that people in Black America gather more consistently and in bigger numbers than anywhere else. So, it is only natural that in an election year if you want to turn people out you have to go where people are turned on," added Rev. Sharpton.
Bishop Victor Curry says what is being asked of congregants transcends politics.
"It's the political unpardonable sin to try to take away people's rights to vote. Purging people from the list who are not supposed to be purged. We went through that in 2000 and Florida was the laughing stock of the world," he said.
Congregants will board church buses Sunday afternoon to cast their ballots at early voting sites.
Early Sunday, hundreds of voters were lined up before the polls even opened.
Early Voting Locations: Miami-Dade County | Broward County
After waits as long as four hours on Saturday, officials are suggesting people read a sample ballot before coming to the polling site. Both Miami-Dade and Broward counties have estimated wait times for each early voting location on their web sites.
On Saturday at Miramar's Public Library, voters told Local 10's Christina Vasquez they were enthused by the long wait.
"This is incredible. This is wonderful to see so many people showing up, excited about their voting rights and privileges," said Donald Clark.
"This is great," said Sally Perez. "This is what democracy is all about."
Rev. Al Sharpton also headlined a rally outside the Stephen P. Clark Center, before it opened on Saturday.
"I'm going to tour all day today... We are determined to fight for our voting rights. No matter for who people vote for," said Rev. Sharpton.
According to officials, more than 1.1 million Floridians have already cast ballots through mail-in absentee voting.
On Saturday, Republican nominee Mitt Romney was in Florida to help to kick-off his party's early voting efforts. President Barack Obama is expected to campaign in Orlando on Sunday.
Florida has nearly 12 million voters who will be eligible to vote in the crucial presidential election.
State officials Saturday released new voter registration numbers that show that the number of active voters has grown 6 percent to a total of 11.94 million.
President Barack Obama carried Florida in 2008, but he is locked in a very tight race with GOP rival Mitt Romney in the swing state that could decide the election.
The new registration numbers show the gap between Republicans and Democrats is smaller than it was in 2008. There are nearly 536,000 more Democrats than Republicans. There are 4.78 million Democrats and 4.24 million Republicans.
The number of voters not affiliated with any party, however, grew at a substantially faster rate than either major party.
Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.