Eye-Opening History in Bay County Elections

By: Ashley Arnold Email
By: Ashley Arnold Email

Bay County is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year and the supervisor of elections, Mark Andersen, is preparing for a historical lesson in local elections that might shock some.

Andersen and his employees have been working on the project for two months and during the process, they stumbled upon some old ballots and documents that tells the eye-opening story of unequal treatment for women and minorities.

"Just the history of Bay County is amazing what I've learned you know, what I thought I knew compared to what I do know now," said David Solots, a precinct election official. "Just so many things that have changed my outlook on how the county was set up and all that."

Several items caught Solots by surprise, like the amazing accuracy of the work, even though elections were all done by hand, but other things were more shocking.

"A lot is just the small areas of town that no longer exist is one of the main things for me," said Solots. "There's 3 towns that are now a part of Tyndall Air Force Base that actually Tyndall says you're not a town anymore and asks them to leave basically. The cemeteries are still there and that's it."

But for others doing research, some of the more eye-opening information deals with how information was sorted.

"I didn't know that they put the races in the books until just going through the books and looking at the C's and W's," said production room deputy, Angela Speights.

You pick up pieces where it does set you back a bit and you start reading letters that are coming from the state where it says white democrat, colored democrat, white republican, colored republican, prohibition party and other parties," said Bay County Elections Supervisor Mark Andersen, while looking over the documents. "It really makes you start digging and looking in other areas."

Andersen says they hope to open the exhibit to the public in June. It will include information on elected officials and the first women voters in the area.

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