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In New York's Harlem, Black Voters Divided Between Clinton, Sanders

  • VOA Staff

Voters make their choice at the Second Canaan Baptist Church, Central Harlem, New York, April 19, 2016. (R. Taylor / VOA)

Voters make their choice at the Second Canaan Baptist Church, Central Harlem, New York, April 19, 2016. (R. Taylor / VOA)

Beside Central Park, at the southern tip of New York's Harlem neighborhood, Second Canaan Baptist Church — erected in 1947 — welcomes a diverse, mostly African-American set of voters.

Inside, altars and chairs have been replaced with booths and registration tables. In place of a pastor, a voting clerk directs people to formally cast a ballot.

"We have a first-time voter!" declares one volunteer, to the cheers of everyone in the room.

This is primary election day in New York City. From 6 a.m. until 9 p.m., churches and elementary schools throughout the city are packed with voters.

Voters line up outside a voting center at the Second Canaan Baptist Church in South Central Harlem, New York, April 19, 2016. (T. Trinh / VOA)

Voters line up outside a voting center at the Second Canaan Baptist Church in South Central Harlem, New York, April 19, 2016. (T. Trinh / VOA)

The neighborhood itself — Central Harlem — is a democratic stronghold. So much so that one might get the impression it is a two-person race: Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton.

Inside, we spoke to Deborah, a Harlem resident who came to cast her vote for Sanders.

"I was taken in by the words 'political revolution,' that really got me going," she said.

Deborah was not swayed by recent polls, which had Sanders trailing Clinton — and by especially large margins among minority communities.

"Even if he doesn't win, he's going to have great influence on whatever the policies are that follow," she said.

Jacob, on the other hand, a retiree originally from Africa, was not feeling the Bern.

"I'm a diehard Democrat and I will be voting for Hillary Clinton," he said. "I don't want our Social Security being privatized and she's a strong supporter of not having our Social Security privatized."

Even as they headed to the polls, some New Yorkers remained undecided. Harlem resident Rena Hughes wanted more reasons to vote for Clinton.

"I would love to see a woman in the presidency because we haven't had that, but that's really just not enough, it's not enough," Hughes said.

WATCH: Harlem Voters Express Support for Clinton, Sanders

If it comes down to a "gut feeling," she indicated she might go with Sanders.

Regardless, one thing Hughes knew for sure was that Republican Donald Trump would not get her support.

"I don't think he represents me at all,” she said. “He has a lot of money and I think that's what really has brought him as far as he's gotten."

Trump, she argued, does not represent lower-class and middle-class values, which she said affects many in her neighborhood.

"To live in New York, it's expensive and a lot of us can't afford to move … if you have to choose between paying your rent and groceries, I think that's a big deal … especially in New York state," Hughes said.

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