‘ . . . the turnout has been astounding!’
‘People are starting to get riled up at the prospect of discord at the polling places’
That’s how Rappahannock County Registrar Kim McKiernan describes the heavy turnout thus far for in-person absentee voting at her Gay Street office in Washington.
“Busy — the turnout has been astounding!” McKiernan tells the Rappahannock News. “We’ve had over 500 in-person [voting] so far [through Monday]. And we’ve mailed out around 1,400 ballots. And we [the county] only have 6,000 registered voters as of last week.”
By comparison, the 2016 November General Election saw “total mail-in ballots of only around 400,” the registrar said.
For the remaining voters who will cast ballots at the county’s district polling stations on Tuesday, Nov. 3, McKiernan seeks to dispel rumors emanating from political circles surrounding voter intimidation, including hearsay of armed self-appointed militias organizing to “protect” the polls.
“Which I don’t think we will see,” the registrar states. “But we are planning ahead for it to be a safe and an unimpeded experience for people at the polls. Our election chiefs are authorized to ask people to leave and if they do not they are authorized to call law enforcement.”
Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie Compton tells the Rappahannock News: “I don’t have any information that there’d be anything [out of the ordinary at the polls]. Let’s hope not. We don’t need that out here.”
The sheriff assures voters that she personally and her deputies “will be patrolling all of the polling stations” throughout the entire day, as they have in past elections.
Meanwhile, the deadline passes at 11:59 this evening (Thursday) to register to vote in the November election or update an existing registration. Otherwise it was one month ago — Sept. 17 and 18 respectively — that absentee ballots started being mailed out to county residents who requested them and in-person absentee voting got underway at the Registrar’s office at 262A Gay Street.
In-person voting, which takes place Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., will soon be extended to include the Saturdays of Oct. 24 and Oct. 31, the latter being the final day to vote before Nov. 3.
“Masks are required,” the office stresses of in-person voting absentee, “and only one person at a time is permitted.”
Be advised that Friday, Oct. 23, is the deadline for the Registrar’s Office to receive completed absentee ballot applications in order for ballots to be mailed to voters. Be certain it is signed. Further information is available on the county website or by phoning 540-675-5380.
Tuesday, Nov. 3, is Election Day — now a state holiday, effective July 1. Polls will open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.
“Out of respect for our election officials, fire department members, and voters, please wear a mask and practice social distancing,” the county asks.
Adds McKiernan: “Obviously we can’t say you can’t vote [without a mask], but with the pandemic going back up again we want to be sure the election officials in our community are safe.”