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‘One of the most important elections of our time’ - Major push in US to get out Caribbean votes as clock winds down

Published:Tuesday | October 20, 2020 | 12:13 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer

With just over two weeks before voters in the United States presidential and congressional elections, leaders in the Caribbean Diaspora have revved up efforts to increase voter turnout among the regional diaspora community.

With early voting already under way in a number of states, diaspora organisations have been mobilising people, especially the elderly, to the polls.

With more than 4.4 million Caribbean-Americans eligible to vote, the community can help swing results in key states like Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.

Last weekend, Caribbean-Americans, including some political leaders, held a non-partisan event to engage the diaspora and make them aware of the possibilities if they tap into their collective political power.

“As Caribbean young leaders, we understand the importance of voting in any election and felt it necessary to host this get out the vote (GOTV) webinar to encourage our Caribbean-American brothers and sisters to exercise their right to make their voices heard,” said Mona-Lee Belizaire, a member of the host committee.

“We know that this is an important election, and there are many items on the ballot that impact our Caribbean-American community. It is important for us to arm voters with all the information they need to make informed decisions,” she said.

Critical issues

This year is a critical one for democracy and the Caribbean-American community, emphasised the leaders, with critical issues like immigration, healthcare, and more at stake.

“If just a few thousand people decide to sit this one out, we are risking sacrificing our democracy,” said Rep Yvette Clarke. “As we continue to show up at the polls, show that we have a voice, and that we will shape our democracy, we will be heard … . Your voices matter … . As my mother would say, ‘We nah going no place’. … You have been given an opportunity to shape this nation.

“We need to ensure voters have all of the information needed to vote safely, in unprecedented ways, demonstrating the full power of the Caribbean-American vote in what we know will be one of the most important elections of our time,” added Clarke.

“We have a unique opportunity as Caribbean-Americans. We are going from a group that is little talked about, and now, we have a real opportunity where that is changing,” said award-winning journalist Melissa Noel.

“We are largely ignored or only tapped as we get closer to Election Day. That has changed because we have someone of Caribbean descent making history on the ballot, but we need to think beyond the election. We build political power as a community when we serve in leadership roles within the political parties, form Caribbean commissions in our states, and put money and time into the candidates who represent our interests,” added host committee member Joanne Antoine.

“You can’t underestimate the power of literally flexing your muscles. Volunteering is worth its weight in gold.” said Anton Andrew, candidate for PA State House, D160.