BY JAMES HARPER
Volusia County’s registered voters have been going to the polls to early vote since Aug. 4. They have until Saturday, Aug. 11 to vote during regular early voting hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
On the primary ballot, residents are voting for candidates for United States senator; U.S. representative in Congress, District 6; state attorney, county judge, groups 4 and 8; school board, districts 2 and 4; supervisor of elections; and county council chair.
Black vote counts
Considering a low turnout so far at early voting sites across Volusia County based on the number of registered voters, Black voters could have the final word on who is elected in some key races. That’s if they all vote for same candidate.
“The Black community has become more independent. They vote on issues. They (Blacks) don’t block-vote anymore,” said Bethune-Cookman University Political Science Professor Randy Jacobs.
Jacobs said considering the makeup of the population (35 percent Black) of Daytona Beach and the number of registered Black voters citywide and countywide, candidates – Black or White – should not write off the Black vote.
“Although they (Whites) think they don’t need our (Black) vote, they should reach out. They don’t know our issues; many are not in touch with our community,” Jacobs noted.
According to the elections office, in Daytona Beach as of Aug. 7, there were a total of 36,063 registered voters. Of that total, 12,136 are Black; 20,830 White.
At the City Island Library, where voting booths are set up in Daytona Beach for early voting until Saturday, only 1,418 residents had voted by the Daytona Times’ Wednesday press deadline.
Countywide, 4,963 including Daytona Beach voters, had voted. In Volusia County, there are 27,131 registered Black voters, according to the elections office. That’s out of a total of 320,212 registered voters as of Aug. 6.
Within Volusia County Council District 2, (where most of Daytona Beach is located), there are 63,366 registered voters; 10,055 are Black registered voters.
For the congressional District 6 race, which includes Daytona Beach, there are 21,283 registered voters. That out of a total of 236,381.
For the Volusia County School Board District 2, 61,559 residents are registered to vote. Of that number, 11,166 are Black.
For the Volusia County School Board District 4, which has a small percentage of Daytonans, there are 63,942 registered voters; 4,449 are Black.
A Black candidate is represented in most of the key races in the county and the city.
In Daytona Beach, former commissioners Gwen Azama-Edwards and Derrick Henry are running for mayor. Also on this ballot mayor are current city commissioner Edith Shelley and Realtor Fred Hoffman.
There are two Black candidates, Paula Reed and Cathy Washington, competing for the Zone 6 commission seat. This race will be on the November general election ballot.
In county races, incumbent Volusia County School Board District 2 representative Al Williams is facing another Black candidate – Ida Duncan.
Dr. Walter Fordham, a local educator, is the only Black in the race for the District 4 School Board seat, which includes Linda Costello, Judy Conte and Charles King.
Black attorney Beaulah Blanks is going up against Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall. In addition, County Councilman Andy Kelly and community activist Teresa Apgar are in the race.
Seminole Sheriff Deputy Wendell Bradford, who is Black and lives in Deltona, wants to make history as Volusia County’s first Black Sheriff, He faces an uphill battle against three-term incumbent Sheriff Ben Johnson.
No automatic vote
Professor Jacobs says the Black vote can make a difference in many of these key races.
Jacob says the people he encounter, especially students, aren’t aware of the price Black people paid to have the right to vote.
“They (students) are so far removed from civil rights, slavery – these concepts are not tangible. I remind them of the struggle – the price paid for your right to vote – a cost was paid,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said there shouldn’t be an assumption Black candidates have the interest of other Blacks on their agenda.
He also said Black candidates should not assume because they are Black they will get the Black vote.
“There was a time (in the ’50s and ’60s) Black candidates supported the issues of Black community.
That is not necessarily the case today,” Jacob explained.