With 27 electoral college votes up for grabs, Florida promises to be a crucial battleground again in the forthcoming US presidential elections.
For a start hurricanes have taken their toll with the campaign trail torn to shreds for many activists. But with its fluid demographics, it is almost impossible to predict what is going to happen. The Hispanic community no longer faithfully follows the Republicans. The party has seen its popularity plummet after George Bush allowed several fugitives to be returned to Cuba after they had made it to Florida. The President infuriated thousands more when he imposed sweeping restrictions on Cuban-Americans returning to Cuba. There is also uncertainty over a new touch screen voting system designed to avoid the bitter recount dispute of the last election. But the system has already been subject to legal skirmishes over requests for paper confirmation. Florida remains haunted by the furore over the last Presidential contest. Though Al Gore won the presidential vote in the country, a 36 day recount effort was halted by the US Supreme Court, awarding the electoral college votes and the election to Bush Many in the black community believe the Republicans triumphed because they were not included in the counting. Political activists blame a system which they claim deliberately excludes the black community from the process as it traditionally votes democrat. Pastor Levy Wilcox says he does not have any confidence in the new system: “We don’t believe the system is going to be fair, and we don’t want our votes to get lost in that absentee ballot. And so we want to make sure that we get our votes counted. State authorities have also taken a hammering after it recently emerged that several thousand black people were mistakenly placed on a list of people who had their right to vote because of criminality. Other critics have complained that election day is not a public holiday so thousands in low paid jobs will be working while others will have problems reaching polling stations before they close at seven o’clock in the evening.