With Florida vote tightening, a last-minute push aimed at Black voters

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TALLAHASSEE — Joe Biden’s campaign made one final push to reach out to Florida’s Black voters on Sunday as it participated in “Souls to the Polls" events.

The Democratic nominee’s wife, Jill Biden, was joined by members of George Floyd’s family on the steps one of Tallahassee’s most well-known Black churches, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, where supporters addressed those who protested Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in May.

Ben Crump, a Tallahassee attorney who represents the Floyd family and has become known nationally, gave a fiery speech to the crowd of roughly 200, saying the “blood” of George Floyd, Emmett Till and Martin Luther King Jr. “was on the ballot.” (Till was a Black teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955.)

“We have to use this energy of the protest to engage in a democratic process,’ Crump told reporters before he spoke. He said that it was “critical” for that young people understand that “the most effective way to give justice to George Floyd, to Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake is come and vote.”

“Souls to the Polls” events held on the final Sunday of early voting have been seen as crucial to boosting Democratic turnout in the past in Florida, and at least 80 events were scheduled across the state on the final weekend of early voting. But this year’s events come amid a pandemic that has curtailed activities.

Democrats remain fretful that Black voter participation will lag as it did four years ago when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by nearly 113,000 votes in the state. Barack Obama won Florida both times he was on the ballot.

"You don’t see the enthusiasm of the two elections with Obama, where you’d see people with bumper stickers and flags and signs. I don’t see it this year. I’m not going to say I’m concerned, but it’s not the same this time,” said North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime, who’s supporting Biden. “The pandemic did a lot of harm because it stopped us from doing door-to-door and even the party at the beginning didn’t want to do it to scare people.”

As of Sunday morning, 8.7 million Floridians had already cast votes early, either in-person or through the mail. That’s about 91 percent of the votes cast four years ago. In raw and still uncounted totals, Democrats held a roughly 94,000 advantage over Republicans. Democrats had built up a sizable lead in vote-by-mail, but Republicans have outgained Democrats during in-person early voting.

“I don’t think we could have done better up to this point and I hope it continues,” said Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Fox News on Friday evening.

Trump was scheduled to make his likely final pitch to Florida voters late Sunday night when he was scheduled to hold a rally in Miami-Dade county. Earlier in the day, Republican supporters participated in car caravans and boat parades in Miami-Dade.

"Miami-Dade will deliver for @realDonaldTrump," proclaimed State Sen. Manny Diaz on Twitter.

State Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Miami Gardens Democrat, said he been watching the early voting numbers in Miami-Dade and saw Republican early voting sites rack up higher numbers that ones in Black neighborhoods. But after attending the “Souls to the Polls” events, he said he felt much better.

“It’s a constant stream of people,” Braynon said.

There were long lines and wait times at the North Miami Public Library’s polling place on Sunday afternoon, which Bien-Aime said was promising. But he noted the real indicator will be the numbers produced from Sunday voting.

Jill Biden’s stop at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church was one of three she was scheduled to have in the battleground state on Sunday. Former President Barack Obama is scheduled to make one more stop in Florida on Monday
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Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris made appearances in the three counties on Saturday, with events targeting Black and Latino voters. She first held a drive-in rally at the fairgrounds at Florida International University, located in a heavily Latino area of Miami.

But prominent in the crowd of more than 100 invited guests were Black supporters with Haitian, Trinidadian and Jamaican flags — many of whom carried “Caribbean Americans for Biden” signs. Also front and center at the rally was a group of Black women dressed in pink and green representing Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Black women’s organization that Harris was initiated into while a student at Howard University.

Harris later made a surprise stop in Miami Gardens, the state’s largest city with a majority Black population, at an event being hosted by Rep. Frederica Wilson to encourage Black men to vote. Earlier this week, Wilson told POLITICO she was concerned that money for a ground game was late in coming.

“I think this is the first visit to Miami Gardens of anybody on the ticket — at least this cycle — but it was very important to me, these three days before the election that we not let the election happen without having visited Miami Gardens, with the leaders here today,” Harris said, according to pool reports

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