Pow­er­house se­niors wield hefty in­flu­ence in Flor­ida

Zeal for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion could tip scales

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Peo­ple older than 60 rep­re­sent a pow­er­house vot­ing bloc in the bat­tle­ground state of Flor­ida, and their zeal for the hotly con­tested US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion could tip the scales, ex­perts say. At The Palace re­tire­ment home in south Flor­ida’s Coral Gables, elec­tion sea­son has been a big deal, with residents hold­ing de­bate-watch­ing par­ties to dis­cuss-and some­times ar­gue about-the can­di­dates’ po­si­tions. They plan to stay up late and watch the re­turns to­gether on Elec­tion Night next Tues­day.

“This year, es­pe­cially, our vote is definitely go­ing to mat­ter. It could push it one way over the other,” said Pamela Parker, who man­ages en­ter­tain­ment for the 200 el­derly residents, 85 per­cent of whom are reg­is­tered to vote. Se­niors al­ready ac­count for more than half the 4.5 mil­lion bal­lots cast so far in early vot­ing in the state, ac­cord­ing to Daniel Smith, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the Univer­sity of Flor­ida. “Older vot­ers dis­pro­por­tion­ately vote in Flor­ida,” he said, not­ing they make up just over one third (35 per­cent) of the state’s 13 mil­lion strong elec­torate.

So just how are the el­der Amer­i­cans vot­ing in­side the bal­lot booth? It’s hard to say for sure, since early vot­ers’ picks are not counted or made public un­til Elec­tion Day. But ex­perts are keep­ing a close eye on vot­ers’ party af­fil­i­a­tion for clues.

Over­looked in the past

So far, about 100,000 more Repub­li­can se­niors have voted than Democrats, ac­cord­ing to Smith, who main­tains a database on voter turnout that is updated daily. “Not all go for Donald Trump, but cer­tainly there is a lot of en­thu­si­asm for Donald Trump,” said Smith. Parker be­lieves that older vot­ers have “un­for­tu­nately been over­looked in the past.” To make sure se­niors can vote, par­tic­u­larly those with lim­ited mo­bil­ity, state elec­tion of­fi­cials opened a polling place on site at The Palace, just a short trek from the din­ing room, one week before Elec­tion Day.

Many treaded slowly to the vot­ing room, some lean­ing on wheeled walk­ers to steady their gait, but their sense of ur­gency was ap­par­ent. “I think it is ter­ri­bly im­por­tant. Prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant one I have seen in my life­time,” said Anne Sager, 89, who was elected mayor of Sara­sota, Flor­ida, in the 1980s and sup­ports Hil­lary Clin­ton. “Be­cause I think the di­rec­tion our coun­try is go­ing will be de­cided in this elec­tion for a long time to come.”

With an “I Voted” sticker af­fixed to her shirt, Sager said that pro­tect­ing abor­tion rights was im­por­tant to her, along with mak­ing sure Democrats get to pick jus­tices to fill the cur­rent and any up­com­ing Supreme Court va­can­cies. She also said she was pleased to cast her vote for a woman pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for the first time. “I think it is a choice be­tween the ex­pe­ri­enced public ser­vant and re­ally, poli­cies that are un­known,” Sager said.

Hil­lary T-shirt

While se­niors else­where in Flor­ida may be more in­clined to vote Repub­li­can, Parker said The Palace’s residents are tilt­ing to­ward Clin­ton­though she her­self does her best to re­main non-par­ti­san. Rae Gra­ham, 93, made no se­cret of her pick, wear­ing a T-shirt cov­ered in dozens of pic­tures of Clin­ton’s smil­ing face. “I love Hil­lary and I think she is go­ing to be a won­der­ful pres­i­dent,” said Gra­ham, before of­fer­ing a pair of four-let­ter words to de­scribe Trump.

Lee Adel­son, 88, said he thinks the Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire presents a global dan­ger, so he voted not only for Clin­ton, but for ev­ery Demo­crat on his bal­lot. “Trump talks about build­ing a wall to keep the Mex­i­cans out,” he said. “If Trump wins, the Cana­di­ans are go­ing to build a wall to keep the Amer­i­cans out.” Adel­son pointed to an­other man who had also just voted and was chat­ting with friends over break­fast nearby, de­scrib­ing him as a Repub­li­can. Later, the man con­firmed to a vis­it­ing re­porter that he was in­deed a Repub­li­can, but said that he was not for Trump. “I can’t talk any more, I have some­where to be!” he said with a laugh as he dis­ap­peared into an el­e­va­tor. — AFP

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