BY JAMES HARPER
The local NAACP is calling for an early voting site to be located in District 2 during the upcoming school board election.
Dr. Walter Fordham, political action chairman of the Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP and a Bethune-Cookman University professor, along with NAACP president Cynthia Slater have voiced their concerns that there will be one voting site set up during early voting for the District 2 special election. That early voting site is in DeLand, where the Volusia County’s elections office is located in the courthouse at 125 W. New York Ave.
“Citizens must have an opportunity to show a stake in what happens in District 2. Citizens deserve the support of this county elections department,” Fordham said.
A special election has been scheduled for Dec. 18 to replace School Board chairman Al Williams, who died unexpectedly on Oct. 1. Early voting for the seat takes place Dec. 8-13.
5 seeking office
The five candidates running for the school board seat are Ida Duncan-Wright, an instructor at Bethune-Cookman; Dr. Kathy Williams, a retired educator and Williams’ widow; Teresa Valdes of Daytona Beach Shores; Deborah Nader of South Daytona; and Horace Anderson, a local barber and hairstylist.
Slater, along with Fordham and other elected officials are upset that Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall the early voting site is on the west side of the county and the District 2 school board seat’s boundaries are on the east side of the county.
Early voting for most residents of the Greater Daytona Beach area usually takes place at the City Island Library, which is about 20 miles from the DeLand elections office.
Fordham helped to organize a 2,000 student march to the polls during early voting before the Nov. 6 general election.
“To set voting dates beginning Dec. 8 to Dec. 13 does not support a plan to make special election voting convenient for citizens in District 2. This plan comes from the same era as literacy tests and poll taxes – all of which were enacted to prevent colored people from voting,” said Fordham.
He also is concerned that B-CU students who are registered to vote won’t be in town on Dec. 18 for the primary election. The students will be on holiday break at that time.
Fordham also said that when a site or precinct is not accessible, it has a disproportionate racial impact in the district assumed to elect a Black representative.
Slater, Cusack,Wagner respond
Slater said she was not aware of a statute that addresses a window to hold primaries for special elections.
“What I can speak on is the effect the primary election will have based on the early voting date. Although the fixed dates will affect many voters, we remain diligent in our efforts to ensure all registered voters are able to exercise the right to vote by encouraging students and any other voter who will not be in Daytona Beach during the primary elections date to vote absentee ballot,” Slater said.
Volusia County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack, who served on the canvassing board for the general and primary elections, said she was very disappointed when she learned that early voting would only be at the DeLand office.
“I did put it on the record of the canvass board meeting that early voting for the school board should be in Daytona where the voters in that district live. The supervisor stated (early voting) will only happen at the DeLand location. I do not agree with that decision,” Cusack noted.
Joshua Wagner is the District 2 representative for the Volusia County Council. If it were his decision, he would have an early voting site open in Daytona Beach.
“I have spoken to many of my constituents and they agree that there should be an early voting site in Daytona Beach for this election. As you know, I am a very strong proponent of early voting and want to make sure all citizens are afforded the opportunity to vote,” he said.
Mayor weighs in
Newly elected Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry also weighed in on the issue.
“It is important that we have an early voting location for this critical election and failure to do so during the holiday season – given the propensity for travel – will suppress the voter turnout,” Henry said.
McFall verified to the Daytona Times that the law does not require her office to open up any additional offices for early voting for special elections. She’s only required to open the main office.
She also told Slater during a conference call that she overspent her budget during the general election and she didn’t have the operating funds to open an early voting site in Daytona.
Slater said McFall stated that there are special elections coming up in other cities in the county. If she opened an early voting site in Daytona Beach, she would have to offer the same service in other cities. Therefore, she is not extending special early voting sites to any cities.
McFall explained that she once opened up an office for a special election in Holly Hill or Ormond some time ago and no one took advantage of the early voting site.
“This cost her office thousands of dollars so she felt it was not cost-effective and didn’t want to provide that service again,” Slater said.
As of Daytona Times’ press time Wednesday night, early voting was still set for Saturday, Dec. 8, in person only in DeLand at the elections office in the courthouse. Early voting continues to Dec. 13 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
All other voters will have to wait until Dec. 18 and vote at their regular precinct.
McFall said 10,000 absentee ballots have been sent out to voters who have asked that they always receive absentee ballots for all scheduled elections.
McFall expects a low turnout for this election considering the school board race is the only one on the ballot.
A runoff is set for Jan. 15 if no one gets more than half the primary vote.
School board members are elected to four-year terms and earn $34,010 annually.