Could Broward County Voters Be Our Future?

By Lucy Chabot

Amadeo "Trinchi" Trinchitella's office walls are covered with photographs that speak volumes about his political clout in the Democratic bastion of Broward County, Florida.Here he is with Bill Clinton, here with Hillary Rodham Clinton, here with former Florida governor and current U.S.Sen.Bob Graham.

As the unofficial "top dog" of the volunteer army of senior citizens that run Century Village, a retirement community in Broward County, Trinchi is courted by Democrats ranging from local school board candidates to United States presidents.Politicians pay homage to Trinchi because he can deliver an audience of more than 14,000 seniors.And these seniors, like millions across the country, vote in higher proporations than any other group.

"That's because we're very much interested in our way of life," Trinchi says."We have to protect our gains.I say it's about preservation.We have contracts with the government on Social Security and Medicare and we want to keep them.We have to fight for them because we know we could lose them."

Nationally, about 70 percent of registered voters between 55 and 75 years vote, the largest turnout for any age group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's November 1996 Current Population Survey.In Broward, the numbers are even higher -- 75.3 percent of registered voters aged 65 and older showed up at the polls in November 1996.

By comparison, 68.5 percent of registered voters aged 35 to 64 voted in Broward County in November 1996.And among the youngest crowd, registered voters aged 18 to 35, only 47.5 percent made it to the polls.

"Of course I vote," says Ida Levine, 76, a resident of Broward,s' Century Village."It's my duty as an American citizen to vote."

Florida gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush, son of former President George Bush, understands the value of courting seniors.In his bid to be Florida's next governor, Bush brought his mother, Barbara, with him to a meeting of seniors in the St.Petersburg area.

Broward's Democrats expect Republican Bush to win the election next week, but they don't expect him to win in their county.That's because Broward's seniors are loyal.The state Democratic party has been on rocky ground since a black state legislator was replaced in January as House Speaker-designate with a white one.While Bush has heavily wooed, and in many cases won, the state's black voters, seniors are standing strong and Democrat.It was Broward's Democrats who gave Governor Lawton Chiles his narrow victory over Bush in 1994.

"I'll never switch parties," says Henry Arken, 83 and president of the Condominium Owners Organization of Century Village East."If I ever changed my vote, I'd have to pack up and leave the Village."

The Census Bureau finds that seniors are more likely to vote because they have more time to not only get to the polls, but to educate themselves about issues and candidates.Younger people are too busy with work and home to vote.Yet Broward County's seniors dispute that voting is simply a matter of time.

"I've always voted, ever since I've been able to," Arken says."I don't think it's about time.When we worked, we got an hour or two off to vote.It's part of our lives.It's like our routine." And in Broward County at least, the seniors vote as a bloc.Those 14,000 residents of Century Village East are just about 100 percent Democrat.

Published Tuesday, November 3rd, 1998

Written by Lucy Chabot

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