Why A North Miami Voting Precinct Draws Many Volunteers And Fights

Aug 27, 2014

Campaign volunteers in North Miami on Election Day Aug. 26, 2014
Credit Nadege Green / WLRN

The primary election in Miami-Dade County was, for the most part, unremarkable. Voter turn-out was low, and there weren’t many contentious races

But at one North Miami precinct, every election is drama-filled.

Dozens of campaign volunteers lined the sidewalks around the Sunkist Grove Community Center on Northwest 125 Street and 13 Avenue.

They shouted at voters in English and Creole from bullhorns. They sprinted after unsuspecting drivers to shove fliers  into their car windows.  And they aggressively argued with one another over whose candidate will win.

"This is a large precinct. There's a lot of voters, there's approximately 4,000 some odd registered voters. That means this. You know, the little fighting, the bickering comes out," said Alix Desulme, former North Miami city clerk.

Historically, most candidates concentrate their volunteers at this North Miami polling place because of the higher-than-normal turnout. And sometimes, the volunteers clash.

Tuesday's primary election was no exception.

Heated Argument

A high-profile dispute erupted outside the polling place between Sen. Oscar Braynon and popular Haitian lobbyist Ringo Cayard.

Braynon confronted Cayard about comments he made on Haitian radio.

"I said, 'I just want you to know we're not friends,'" Braynon said of his conversation with Cayard.

Both men agree the discussion got heated with a crowd forming around them. Cayard said one of Braynon's supporters threatened to shoot him.

"He said, 'I'm going to shoot you,' they were threatening me you know," said Cayard. "It was crazy." 

Braynon said that isn't true. He said while the crowd that formed had chosen sides and were yelling at each other in English and Creole there were no threats made.

"I never had anything like this," said Braynon. "He's a liar."

Bullhorns And Boasts

Meanwhile, the constant yelling into bullhorns by at least six different campaign workers started to annoy some.

When one man asked a bullhorn-yelling worker to quiet down, the man with the bullhorn warned he would take off all of his clothes to give the requestor a beat down. 

And when one campaign worker told a rival campaign's volunteer in Creole not to get too close to the polling place so as to not violate the 75-foot rule, the rival volunteer offered, "Don't make me slap you."

The man who was warning him about getting too close responded: "Slap me! Slap me!"

Jamil Pierre, 19, was campaigning for Senator Braynon at the North Miami polling place. He says campaign workers at the Sunkist Grove Community Center let their emotions get the best of them.

"I just feel like they’re just trying to get their candidate to win," he says.

Despite all the loud arguments and near fights on Election Day, no one ever called the police. The volunteers said once the polls closed at 7 p.m., all would be well again.