NAACP leaders reflect on low Black voter turnout

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BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

The Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Office has reported that 106,739 voters cast ballots during the 2020 primary with voter turnout at 28 percent. It’s reported to be the highest total in a primary in 18 years.

The turnout was higher than the 2016 primary, which was 27 percent. Turnout in the 2018 midterm primary was also 28 percent. Voter turnout in the county is usually reported at around 23 percent to 25 percent.

However, only 8,864 Blacks voted in the 2020 primary, which is 8.3 percent turnout. There are more than 30,000 Black voters in Volusia County.

The low turnout is a major disappointment to local Black leaders.

“Yes, we are disappointed with voter turnout, especially in the African American community,” said Cynthia Slater, president of the Daytona Beach/Volusia County NAACP.

Doing the work

Local civil rights and voting rights organization don’t tout failure of get-out-the vote efforts but says voters are to blame.

“We’re doing all the work. We have registered more young people and returning citizens. We’re trying to get them involved earlier. I think the more they are involved. They buy in and know why it all matters. Said Shyriaka “Shy” Morris, president of the Southeast Volusia NAACP.

“We try to give them information they can use on why they should vote. We are always talking about the importance of civic responsibility and participation. In any election, people should always exercise their right to vote,”

Slater shared, “I don’t think we fail. We have a voice and a responsibility. At the end of the day everyone knows what’s going on in this country. It’s citizens responsibility. There are those who died for us to have the right to vote.”

More drives

In recent years, there has been increasing numbers of Blacks registering to vote.

“We always do voter registration. We have increased voter registration drives and numbers. There are enough Black voters who can make a difference. We need those on the rolls to go ahead and vote. They not voting; that is a problem,” said Slater.

Morris believes younger voters could be the key voter turnout.

She expressed, “My thing is working on the next generation. We have shown videos on the journey African Americans had to go through to earn the right to vote. My mission is to change the minds of the next generation of voters.”

Apathy, disinterest

A few factors could contribute to Black voters not voting.

Slater explained “I think the biggest thing is voter apathy. The coronavirus also played a huge role in preventing people from voting. Turnout at primaries is always low but politics start locally. If we can’t vote at the local level, it’s not good. “We are voting for our mayors, city and county commissioners, state representatives, judges and more. If we can’t show for that, God help us in the general election.”

Morris added, “People don’t vote for several reasons. People are registered but don’t vote. The super voters always vote but many are becoming discouraged. People need to get more involved locally in the community to make change there. People also don’t know who to vote for. They aren’t familiar with the candidates’ platforms.”

Texts, emails and more

In the primary in Volusia County, Democrats cast 43,525 ballots at 41 percent turnout while Republicans cast 46,080 ballots at 43 percent.

“It was actually our highest primary total,” said Jewel Dickson, Chair, Democratic Executive Committee.

The local Democratic Party is also trying to increase turnout with Black voters.

Dickson explained, “We are hard at work. We are teaming up with the NAACP on both sides of the county and the Minority Elected Officials.

“We are making phone calls, texts, sending emails, mailing out cards and letters. We’re definitely trying to get African Americans out to vote.”

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