WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The streets were buzzing Sunday as New Yorkers who are registered to vote in the Dominican Republic cast their ballots for who will be their homeland's next president.
It's not just the tight presidential race, which is essentially between two rivals that have taken turns in the presidential office since 1996, that's heating up the Heights.
For the first time, the Dominican Republic's National Congress will have three New Yorkers sitting in the lower house, which is called the Chamber of Deputies, sources told DNAinfo.com New York.
Since the 2000 census, New York City's population of Dominicans has grown by 42 percent, to the 576,701 that reside here in 2010. The city comprises 41 percent of all Dominicans living in the US.
The new deputies will join the Chamber's 183-member body, but it was unclear Sunday how those elected would serve their terms — stateside, or in the Dominican Republic? A spokesperson from the consulate was unable to be reached.
According to the BBC, 6.5 million voters are registered to cast ballots in this election. Of those, 300,000 are abroad, the majority located in New York, the BBC reported. Census figures showed 1.4 million Dominicans currently living in the United States.
Polling officials would not allow a reporter inside a voting station at Gregorio Luperon High School, at 501 West 165th St., before the 6 p.m. closure, but candidate posters covered lampposts all over the neighborhood and locals were happy to talk about the election.
The current leader, President Leonel Fernández, is barred from re-election because of laws limiting him to two 4-year terms, but his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) is running economist Danilo Medina on the ballot. Medina's running mate is the current first lady, Margarita Cedeño de Fernández.
"I voted for Danilo [Medina] out of family loyalty. My uncle is a long time support of Danilo so in the end I voted for him," said Daniel Infante,18, a student of architecture in New York It was his first time casting a vote in his country's presidential elections, he said.
Ana Luna, 63 a civil servant in New York City, is a long time supporter of the other major candidate, Hipólito Mejía. "He is going to win because he's a good man that works for the poor people of our country," Luna said.
Hipólito Mejía has previously been president for one term from 2000 to 2004. He campaigned on a "very populist, very street approach," said one political source, who did not wish to be named. The message his Dominican Revolution Party (PRD) put out was "Llego Papa!" or "Daddy's Home," a put-down to the existing party, as if they were children who needed to be disciplined.
"It's not something I think any party's done before," said the source, about trying such a street-slang kind of message.
Both candidates made several appearances in New York, and voter drives were rampant leading up to the primaries, when the Deputy applicants were boiled down to one member from each party running for each open seat.
"It's very 50-50 right now, it's going to be a very close election between the two parties," the source, who works in local politics, said.
"The government party [the PLD] has done a good job of making New Yorkers, especially New Yorkers, count. I wouldn't say keeping them happy, there are a lot of people who are dissatisfied with what they see of corruption and poverty," the source said.
As to who would step into office when all the votes were tallied Sunday night, after polls closed at 6 p.m., the source said, "I don't think we'll know until the end."