Local TV report – “Sales of guns are on the rise in Florida” …

And, from the Oct 28, 2008 New York Times…

Jacksonville Journal: Sense of Unease in Some Black Voters


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — For weeks now, James Jones has been extra courteous in traffic and at the gas station because he has an Obama sticker on the back of his truck. “Something like that might make a difference for Barack Obama,” Mr. Jones explained. “I’m not taking a chance.”

Mr. Jones, a black warehouse worker, bought campaign signs for his yard and made sure his family had valid voter registration cards. He and his wife cast their votes 10 days early to avoid last-minute problems at the polls.

So imagine Mr. Jones’s disappointment this week when he got word of a rumor making its way around his humble southeastern part of town — that early voting is nothing more than a new disenfranchisement scam, that early votes are likely to be lost and never counted.

“I went to the library where I voted and I said, ‘Ma’am, I heard rumors that early voting is dangerous, is that true?’ ” Mr. Jones, 47, said he had asked an election worker. “She said: ‘It’s pretty well safe. I wouldn’t worry about it.’ ”

But in conversations with about a dozen Jacksonville residents in cafes, outside churches and at their homes over three days, Mr. Jones and many of his black neighbors worry anyway, unable to put aside the nagging feeling that somehow their votes will not be counted.

Wounds have not healed here in Duval County since the mangled presidential election of 2000, when more than 26,000 ballots were discarded as invalid for being improperly punched. Nearly 40 percent of the votes were thrown out in the predominantly Democratic-leaning African-American communities around Jacksonville, a reality that has caused suspicions of racial bias to linger, even though intentional disenfranchisement was never proved.

Now, in a show of early election enthusiasm, more than 84,200 people have already voted in Duval County, surpassing the number of early votes cast in the last presidential election. Added to 33,800 absentee ballots collected so far, the numbers show that 22 percent of registered voters cast their ballots as of Oct. 27, county election officials said.

But amid excitement over Mr. Obama’s historic candidacy and the chance that the country might choose an African-American president within a matter of days, there is an unmistakable sense of anxiety among blacks here that something will go wrong, that victory will slip away.

“They’re going to throw out votes,” said Larone Wesley, a 53-year-old black Vietnam veteran. “I can’t say exactly how, but they are going to accomplish that quite naturally. I’m so afraid for my friend Obama. I look at this through the eyes of the ’60s, and I feel there ain’t no way they’re going to let him make it.”

Mr. Wesley refuses to vote early. “I don’t believe the machines work properly in general,” he said, “and they really don’t work properly when they think you’re voting for Obama.”

Mr. Wesley’s wife, Paris, disagrees and thinks the best thing she can do is get to her polling place before Nov. 4. “I want to go early so that if I see and hear anything that’s not in keeping with the rules and regulations, I can make a call,” she said. “As far as faith in the system, I don’t have faith in the system. I just pray we have people in the polls who will be honest and watchful.”

Some things have not changed since 2000: Florida is still a battleground. Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, are in hot pursuit of the state’s 27 electoral votes, which could prove crucial for victory.

Other important things have changed. In 2004, there were only minor glitches. Duval County has done away with its old confusing ballot and upgraded its scanning machinery. It also has a new elections supervisor, Jerry Holland, who has reached out to blacks and earned their respect.

The skepticism about early voting is confounding to many officials because it is intended to make voting easier and more accessible, and was recently promoted in Jacksonville by Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama.

Mr. Holland said that the number of people, including blacks, who had turned out to vote early showed that misgivings were not widespread. Of the 84,273 residents who had voted as of Sunday, more than 30,900 were black.

“Obviously, we’ve come a long way since 2000,” Mr. Holland said. “For some people, it may have taken eight years to rebuild confidence. For others, it might take another election cycle. The goal is to keep building confidence one voter at a time.”

He added: “We will have record numbers. It may be feasible to get 50 percent of our voters before the election.”

Still, suspicions linger that something — faulty machines, misread ballots, mysteriously lost votes — will deny Mr. Obama some of the support that he has.

“I vote in a predominantly minority area,” said Monica Albertie, 27, a health care executive. “I worry about getting there and all of a sudden the electricity doesn’t work. Anything can happen. I know that sounds silly, but these are real concerns. We have a record of getting excited, then being disappointed. You get paranoid. What if the bus system shuts down that day?”

Ms. Albertie said she was “on the fence” about early voting, because “I don’t want my early vote to get lost.”

Her friend Susan Burroughs, who is also a health care executive, said she planned to vote early but felt “queasy.”

“You know, you don’t want to get too excited because it could go in just the opposite direction,” Ms. Burroughs said. “You read the papers here, and you know, there was something wrong with the machine over here, they lost the votes over there, they had to recount votes. That makes a lot of people leery.”

“My queasiness is that we shouldn’t become too comfortable with the polls showing he’s ahead,” she said. “It means nothing until you cast your vote, and the tally is in.”

Mr. Jones also expressed a sense of queasiness.

“I feel good, and I don’t feel good,” he said. “I’m thankful to God that this is happening in my lifetime, that I get to see it. But I’m not ready to celebrate anything. This could be a very tricky time for us. I don’t trust the polls. And the state of Florida in the past has had a lot of crooked things going on.”

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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