Blanks seeks to be first Black elections chief

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH, VOLUSIA

BY JAMES HARPER
DAYTONA TIMES

History would be made in Volusia County if Beaulah Blanks is elected its first Black supervisor of elections.

She has a tough challenge ahead of her though as she faces incumbent Ann McFall, current Volusia County Councilman Andy Kelly and DeLand community activist Theresa Apgar.

Blanks, an attorney and former educator, who has lived in DeLand for 16 years but was born in Micanopy, says McFall should be unseated because “the position needs someone with a fresh and different perspective, someone who will not wait until re-election to actively carry out the office’s mission.’’

She says McFall sat on the sidelines while current state election laws were being passed that restricted voter registration and participation and spoke up only when an embarrassing event occurred on her watch.

Handling of event criticized
The event Blanks is referring to involved a New Smyrna Beach school teacher who registered her students to vote but turned the applications in after a 48-hour deadline regarding third-party registrars that was put into effect by Florida legislators a year earlier.

A judge recently blocked the law from going into effect involving third-party registrars.

“While on the surface, the supervisor of elections (McFall) looks like a ‘hero’ by speaking to the media after these events occurred, careful analysis of her authority and how she could have proactively used it shows a supervisor of elections who was engaging in damage control, something that possibly could have been avoided had she taken proactive steps to communicate with and keep citizens informed, especially concerning the more recent changes to state election laws,” Blanks said.

Blanks: Website ‘archaic and self-serving’
Another election law that recently went into effect was reducing the early voting time period from 10 to eight days and blocking voters from early voting on the Sunday before the primary and general election dates.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott also sent out a list of names he asked supervisors of elections across the state to purge from their voter rolls, allegedly because they were not citizens.

McFall and other supervisor of elections have chosen not to purge any names because of another law they say prohibits them from doing so because of the proximity of the Aug. 14 primary.

Blanks says McFall also failed to provide the office with innovations such as electronic technology that would cost-effectively keep voters informed and engaged.

“One example is the Supervisor of Elections’ web page, which, when compared to other supervisor of elections websites in the state, is archaic and self-serving. If voter participation is to extend to younger voters, use of electronic technology, including social media and emailing, is critical,” Blanks remarked.

Other candidates criticize McFall
McFall has come under fire from other opponents as well.

Apgar says she plans to be proactive not reactive to the challenges of the supervisor of elections office.

“If it appears that a registered voter has died, I will not mail a letter to confirm the information. I will pick up the phone to resolve the matter. The supervisor works for the public and not the other way around. I have received phone calls and emails from voters saying they were not treated with deference by the supervisor or the employees,” Apgar said.

Candidate Andy Kelly has accused McFall of wasting taxpayers’ money.

“The fact is that the advertising is starting to look more like promoting herself instead of focusing on the election or any other necessary or required advertising.  It is an extra expense, which means it costs the taxpayers extra,” Kelly said.

Kelly also has been critical of credit McFall has taken for modernizing the Volusia County elections office.

He says changes that have occurred at the office happened only after laws were passed in Tallahassee and directives were given from the secretary of state.

McFall defends action and record
In her defense, McFall says she has been on a number of national news and talk shows and it was her who leaked the story to the press about the News Smyrna Beach teacher.

“The reason why Volusia is getting a lot of national attention is as a result of what happened to the law change. I had to turn in a teacher I knew the laws were going to be controversial,” she said.

“I called my friends at the (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. This has to be a story. I did an op-ed piece, and it went viral,” McFall noted.

Supervisor against Scott’s purge
McFall, who readily admits she is Republican, says she is upset that Scott is asking supervisors of elections to purge voters.

“The governor’s office getting in elections is such a conflict of interest you can drive a Mack truck through it,” McFall continued.

And in reference to modernizing the Volusia County elections office, McFall says, “I’ve brought more technology during my eight years in office than the previous 40 years combined.’’

Candidate: Laws reek of Jim Crow era
Blanks says she will use social media, email and other electronic technology “to effectively communicate with the voters and to increase voter participation by our younger citizens.’’

She also argues that the current state elections laws “reek of a supposedly bygone Jim Crow era.”

“I am running because I am proactive, innovative, fair, and transparent and will bring those attributes to the supervisor of elections position,” Blanks said.

The candidate also says she is running because she could “no longer sit on the sideline and simply critique the current supervisor of elections’ failure to protect our voters and the electoral process.”

She adds that she felt it a civic duty and responsibility to run for supervisor of elections given her knowledge and understanding of the historical struggle of African-Americans, other ethnic groups, and women to obtain the right to vote.

Volusia County is in need of a supervisor of elections who is “proactive in this era of a return to restrictive voter registration laws,” Blanks noted.

Experience voter registration agent
Blanks has worked as a third-party voter registration agent.

“I will bring to the supervisor of elections position first-hand experience of how voter registration and participation are affected by current state laws and what ways will best assist election personnel and the citizens of Volusia County in complying with the laws while continuing to register and educate voters,” Blanks added.

Blanks is a member of the Florida Bar and has served on the Florida Bar’s Judicial Administration and Evaluation Committee. She also is a member of the United States District Court, Middle District, Florida; a life member of the NAACP; a former assistant state attorney; former college professor and administrator; and a former public school teacher.

She graduated from Florida State University College of Law; has a master’s in public administration from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government; a master of arts in African history from the University of Florida, and a bachelor’s degree in history from then Bethune-Cookman College.

In addition, she is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and The Links, Inc.

She is married to Dr. Terry Cleve Blanks, Jr., a dentist in private practice in DeLand.

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