BY JAMES HARPER
Even though only 16 people traveled to DeLand from Daytona Beach to early vote during the primary for the District 2 Volusia County School Board seat and the local NAACP branch raised concerns about disenfranchisement, Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall said she will continue to have only one early voting site for the Jan. 15 runoff election.
“Candidates should do a better job getting people out the vote,” said McFall in an interview with the Daytona Times this week. She said her job is not to get people to the polls but to count the votes.
Turnout for the primary was only 3,972 voters, or about 6 percent of the 66,166 registered voters in District 2, according to the elections office. During the primary, the elections office in DeLand – located on the county’s west side – was the only early voting site available. The District 2 school board seat’s boundaries are on the east side of the county.
Limited funds cited
McFall also disclosed that more people voted by absentee ballot than those who went to their designated polling place during the Dec. 18 primary. Absentee votes were 2,714 while 1,242 voted at polling places.
The law does not require her office to open up any additional offices for early voting for special elections, said McFall.
She only is required to open the main elections office, which is located in the courthouse at 125 W. New York Ave. in DeLand.
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 elections office in DeLand.
McFall also said she overspent her budget during the general election and she didn’t have the operating funds to open an early voting site in Daytona.
Down to Williams, Wright
Early voting for the top two candidates chosen during the primary will be Jan. 5 through Jan 12 from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the DeLand site.
Ida Duncan Wright, an instructor at Bethune-Cookman University, and Dr. Kathy Williams, a retired educator and widow of Volusia School Board Chairman Al Williams were the top vote getters during the Dec. 18 primary. Al Williams died on Oct. 1 before he could be sworn in for another term.
Wright garnered the most votes during the Dec. 18 primary but not enough to win race against Dr. Kathy Williams and three other candidates. Wright received 1,538 votes (39 percent) to Williams’ 1,023 votes (26 percent). Wright had to win 50 percent plus 1 vote to avoid a runoff.
Absentee ballots going out
Absentee ballots for the runoff election will be going out Jan. 4, said McFall.
According to the elections office, 10,000 absentee ballots have been sent out to voters who have asked that they always receive absentee ballots for all scheduled elections.
Registered voters interested in receiving an absentee ballot in the mail before the Jan. 15 election day can request an absentee ballot up until the Wednesday before the election.
McFall said voters also have the option of picking up absentee ballots at her office.
Local leaders disappointed
Dr. Walter Fordham, political action chairman of the Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP, who met with McFall during a teleconference along with NAACP President Cynthia Slater, said “citizens must have an opportunity to show a stake in what happens in District 2.
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 said she was not aware of a statute that addresses a window to hold primaries for special elections adding, “We will remain diligent in our efforts to ensure all registered voters are able to exercise the right to vote.
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.
School board members are elected to four-year terms and earn $34,010 annually.