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How Did Florida's Latinos Vote?
7:30 p.m. E.T.
In a last-ditch effort to persuade last-minute voters, Republicans in South Florida have resorted to robo-calls in which they describe former Cuban President Fidel Castro as supporting Barack Obama for President. "The calls began this past weekend," says Kendall Coffey, former U.S. Attorney in Miami and a staunch Democrat. The calls quoted Cuba's official newspaper, Granma, when referencing Castro's support, Coffey says. "The robo-calls started three or four days ago. I haven't heard them, but my friends in the Cuban-American community have. They are targeting Democrats and Republicans based on age, because older Cubans have the most bitter experience with Castro."
This is not the first time the Republicans have relied upon robo-calls to spur voters to the polls. In 2000, a rallying cry was Elian Gonzalez, the boy who got sent back to Cuba with his father. Elian was a hot-button topic with Cuban Americans who fought to keep the boy with relatives in Miami, and Republicans emphasized his case in robo-calls. "It's a predictable tactic," Coffey says. "Yes, there's some effectiveness. Whether it's too little, too late, I don't know."
Nevertheless, exit-polling in Florida by organizations like the Miami-based Bendixen & Associates show Obama significantly reversing the lead McCain was supposed to hold with Latino voters in the state. If the early surveys hold up, says Bendixen pollster Fernando Amandi, it will be because non-Cuban Latinos are flexing their political muscle in an unprecedented fashion. Their main concern, he says, was "the economy and their insecurity about their jobs and futures in this country. And they're taking it out on the Republicans more than [on] McCain," Amandi says, noting that Latinos are also casting a voto de castigo a punishment vote on the GOP "due to their resentment over the party's anti-immigration rhetoric" (which Amandi notes is ironic, given McCain's support for immigration reform).
Even among Cubans in Florida, says Amandi, Obama should pull 35%, which would be one of the all-time highs for a Democratic presidential candidate. Perhaps just as important, Amandi foresees Obama getting 65% of the under-40 Cuban-American vote in Miami, underscoring the generational divide unfolding in that community. Hialeah, a once predominantly Cuban exile enclave adjoining Miami that today has a growing non-Cuban Latino population, seemed a microcosm of Amandi's findings today. Mireya Concepcion, 57, a Cuban-born cosmetologist who fled Castro's revolution in 1969, walked out of the polling station at the Salvation Army shelter in Hialeah late this afternoon and made it clear she'd voted for McCain. "I worry that Obama is a communist," she said. "I prefer the more direct way McCain and the Republicans handle Cuba." At the same time, Concepcion conceded that her 31-year-old daughter voted for Obama. "The Cuban community is very divided here today," she said.
Meanwhile, Kleuddy Abreu, an 18-year-old Dominican-born student living in Hialeah, left the same polling site enthusiastically voicing her support for Obama. "We're not part of the old Cuban mentality here," she said. "Obama represents a fresh start for us." In Hialeah which traditionally votes as high as 80% Republican in national elections the old mentality may very well be passing. By Siobhan Morrissey / Miami and Tim Padgett / Hialeah
Voter Turnout High on Facebook,
7:25 p.m. E.T.
The usual trickle of status updates, wall posts and random photos was overwhelmed today with a deluge of often pointed political messages on Facebook, where millions of social-networkers logged on and bubbled with Election Day excitement.
By 7 p.m. E.T., more than 4 million people had clicked on a Facebook-sponsored banner to indicate that they had voted. About 2 million people had "donated" their online status to broadcast which candidate they supported. Other users posted links to a variety of "get out the vote" themed YouTube videos, including one featuring a group of dancing kids singing a buoyant song called "You Can Vote However You Like."
First-time voter and Obama supporter Nate Gay woke up at 5 a.m. so he could be among the first to vote at his local polling station in Warrenton, Va. In a 10-minute video that the college student had posted to his profile by noon, he documents his pre-dawn drive to a nearby elementary school and explains why he chose a paper ballot over the computerized touchscreen (he didn't trust the high-tech option). By the time he drove away, a few minutes after 6 a.m. the polling site's opening time a line of voters had formed.
Meanwhile, back on Facebook, Steve Fox of San Francisco updated his status to tell friends that he let his 11-year-old son mark the ballot in the voting booth. "I think it left him feeling a lot more invested in the political process," Fox said. "He told me after we were done that he wished he were 18 so he could vote on his own." All day, the social-networking site's news feed twittered with users either complaining about the long lines or marveling at how quickly they got in and out. Many encouraged friends to vote, reminding everyone that casting a ballot gets voters free Starbucks coffee and Ben & Jerry's ice cream today. By Anita Hamilton / New York City