Some Jacksonville voters experience, discuss voting issues on Election Day

By Katie Garwood |

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — In the state’s too-close-to-call election for governor, every single vote will count.

And that’s why Derrick Thomas of Jacksonville is so frustrated with his local polling officials.

Thomas said he arrived at his precinct at Regency Square Public Library in Jacksonville this morning to find he wasn’t on the voting roll. He said he was registered to vote, and never had an issue voting before. He was denied the ability to vote this morning in the midterm election. 

“They said you’ll have to wait until next time to vote,” Thomas said on the phone.

 He said he hadn’t heard of this issue happening to anyone else in the area, but said “I’m sure it’s more than just me.”

“It’s disrespect,” Thomas added.

In speaking to campaign volunteers at a precinct in the Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville, similar issues to Thomas’ were reported in the primary election in Springfield. He said some voters who came to the precinct didn’t appear on the voting roll.

While Thomas is just one case of a voting issue in Jacksonville, compared to the thousands who cast their vote without problems in Duval County, there are still instances of those being denied the right to vote throughout the country. Restrictive voter ID laws in North Dakota caused difficulty for many Native Americans in casting their votes, some even being denied the right to do so. In Georgia, more than 53,000 voters were purged from the roll prior to the election. On election day, technical issues with voting machines caused hours-long lines for voters.

But those in Jacksonville who were able to cast their votes were grateful to be able to do so. At three precincts surrounding downtown Jacksonville, several voters shared their thoughts on voting issues in Jacksonville and other parts of the country and why it was important for them to cast their votes in this election.

Simonds Johnson Community Center

While voting issues and voter suppression weren’t severe in Jacksonville and the rest of the state, the same can’t be said for states like North Dakota and Georgia, where voting issues were rampant in the 2018 election.

Sheila Jackson, 53, from Jacksonville donned a t-shirt at a precinct on the Northside of Jacksonville that read “let my people vote.” Jackson noted there were some issues she heard of in Jacksonville with voter information not matching the ID. But problems in other parts of the country, she said, are far more pressing.

“You have native Americans who live on reservations and they have post office boxes, they don’t have physical addresses, but they are required to have a physical address to vote,” Jackson said. “What else is that if not suppressing the vote?”

Brown Eastside Branch Library

Newlyweds Betty Jean and Marcus Mixson’s first election day as husband and wife was one to remember. After never participating in an election in his life, Marcus, 57, cast his first ballot of his life. The couple brought along their two grandchildren to the precinct at the Brown Eastside Branch Library on the eastern side of Jacksonville.

“It makes a lot of difference,” Marcus said. “I just made up my mind and said I was going out to do it.”

Betty Jean, on the other hand, has been voting her whole life. As an African American woman, she said the right to vote is something to always take advantage of.

“At one point, we weren’t even allowed to vote,” Betty Jean said. “People gave up their lives so we could have this opportunity. We are proud to be able to vote today.”

The polling place at the Brown Eastside Branch Library was rather quiet and slow, with just several voters passing through from 10 to 11 in the morning. But there may have been reason for that. A campaign volunteer waving a sign outside the precinct said that many of those who would normally be assigned to this precinct are former felons and had lost the right to vote.

Westside Church of Christ

For Kenneth Thomas Sr., 55, voting is more than just a constitutional right. It’s a cherished inheritance passed down from his grandmother and mother, which he now passes onto his three kids.

Thomas Sr. has fond memories of tagging along with his mother and grandmother as they went to cast their votes in every election. He specifically remembers a time when polling places had curtains that voters would pull closed as they cast their votes.

While Thomas Sr.’s experience at the precinct at the Westside Church of Christ in Jacksonville went smoothly, he said he doesn’t take his right to vote for granted.

“Our forefathers, they died for this,” Thomas Sr. said. “We weren’t always able to vote. So when you have the chance to vote, you need to make it your business to do that.”

Completed in conjunction with the GroundTruth Project’s “GroundTruthing the Midterms” project.

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