Hundreds march to cast early vote

Hundreds of college students marched to the Leon County Courthouse Wednesday, in an effort to vote early in the 2004 presidential election.

Students from Florida A&M University, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College participated in the march. FAMU students departed from the student union at 11 a.m. to head to the courthouse.

According to Heather Hinst, who serves as absentee ballot coordinator and early voting coordinator at the supervisor of elections office, a total of 1,569 people voted early Wednesday.

“This is the second largest group that we’ve had since early voting began. The majority of the voters came out with the marches,” Hinst said.

The largest group to date that voted early was not too far ahead. Sunday, 1,584 people voted when former Vice President Al Gore was in Tallahassee.

The organizers’ goal for 2004 was to have students come out and vote early. Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor estimated about 2,500 students participated in the event.

“I’m glad to see that so many people came out,” said organizer Brandon A. Johnson.

Johnson, a fourth-year history education student from Detroit, along with Derrick Wright II, originally presented Proctor with his proposal for the march. They then presented the proposal to his Introduction to Political Science class, and they took it on as their class project.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Wright, a fourth-year marketing student from Detroit.

Their disappointment with the advertisement of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s visit to FAMU prompted the idea.

“When other events are going on around the campus we see cups in the fences and the word is out,” said Johnson. “We saw different organizations doing voter registration drives, which is good, but it doesn’t mean anything if the people don’t vote,” he said.

Johnson and Wright, both 21, distributed national and local press releases, stormed dorm rooms and apartment buildings, held a general body meeting with different clubs and organizations and passed out about 1,600 fliers to get the word out about the march.

The Coalition for Active Voter Education (C.A.V.E.) at FSU had originally organized a rally for Wednesday.

“We found out that FAMU was also doing something on the 27th (of October), we got in touch with Operation Wake Up and decided to do something together,” said organizer Gabe Pendas, a senior physics student from Miami.

Pendas, a 22-year-old student at FSU, said the turnout was exactly what he expected.

“It’s good to see students take time out of their day to turn out,” Pendas said.

FSU students arrived at the courthouse around 1 p.m. chanting and beating buckets and pans. Other students joined FAMU students as they marched throughout the FSU campus and as the group traveled up Macomb Street and College Avenue. Commuters shouted from their cars and blew their horns in support of the march. Officers from the Tallahassee Police Department served as escorts for the march, halting traffic and controlling the crowd. The Red Cross provided water for the marchers and bag lunches and pizza were donated.

“I feel like we’re making history, people are really getting involved in this election,” said Shannon Williams, a senior graphic design student from Tampa.

Others in attendance included County Commissioner Rudy Maloy and city commissioners Alan Katz and Andrew Gillum.

The last day to vote at the courthouse is Monday.

Contact Vineta Woodum at