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They’ll count Rapp’s votes: Kimberly McKiernan (left), director of elections, with staffers Meg Flanagan and Sheran Rigg.

In Rappahannock, a 60 percent increase in absentee ballot requests

Beginning Friday, Rappahannock voters can start casting their ballots for the Nov. 3 general election. Between Friday and Oct. 31, “in-person” voting can be done at the county Voter Registration Office at 262-A Gay St., Washington, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. “Mail-in” absentee ballots will also start to be mailed to those who requested them. 

“We have already received 700 applications for absentee mail-in ballots and I expect dozens of new applications before the request period closes on Oct. 23,” said Kimberly McKiernan, director of elections. “We are working diligently to get these applications approved and the ballots mailed out in a timely manner.” 

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Rappahannock has seen a huge increase in absentee ballot requests.

McKiernan’s office has seen a 60 percent increase in absentee ballot requests as compared to the 2016 general election. While McKiernan doesn’t foresee problems getting the requested ballots mailed, she does “urge voters to mail in their ballots early to avoid any potential problems with postal delivery.”

But with hundreds of absentee ballots to be mailed this week, McKiernan asked that anyone planning to vote in-person this Friday to wait until Monday. “We will certainly accommodate in-person voters on Sept. 18, but we are going to be very busy that day. So, if it is possible for folks to wait a couple of days, it would lighten our load,” she said.

New changes

The Virginia General Assembly and Department of Elections have instituted several changes to the voting process. Among them:

  • Absentee voters will not have to pay for postage to mail their ballots. Each absentee ballot will come with a prepaid envelope addressed to the county voter registration office.

  • Each absentee ballot will be stamped with a unique barcode so voters can track their ballots by accessing the “Ballot Scout” internet site: tinyurl.com/rappballot

  • “Drop boxes” (to avoid purchasing costly metal drop boxes, Rappahannock will use rigid, security-sealed bags) will be placed at each polling station for voters wishing to drop off their absentee ballots.

  • Due to the pandemic, witnesses will not be required to validate absentee ballots.

Enough poll workers?

In the 2018 general election, a Pew Research Center analysis found almost six in 10 U.S. poll workers were age 61 or older, with roughly a quarter over 70. As many of these older poll workers are at higher risk for COVID, concerns have been reported that some will stay home, leading to staff shortages at the polls in Virginia and around the nation. 

McKiernan says there is no such shortage in Rappahannock. “We have a core team of 40 well-trained, experienced poll workers and have recently added eight new workers,” she said. “I do not expect a shortage of workers either in the processing of absentee ballots or working the polls on Election Day. We’ve had a lot of interest from people who want to help out, but once they hear about the long hours and intense work involved, some shy away,” she said. Poll workers normally earn $150 to work up to 15 hours or longer on Election Day. Those interested in helping at the polls may contact McKiernan at 540-675-5380.

What’s on the ballot?

Voters will choose among candidates for president and vice president, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives. Two Virginia constitutional amendments are proposed as well. The first calls for establishing a redistricting commission that would be responsible for drawing congressional and state legislative districts. The second would waive state and local taxes on automobiles or pickup trucks owned or primarily used by veterans who have a permanent 100 percent service-connected disability. 

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A sample ballot for November's election.

Voting precincts – Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

101 – Town of Washington/Hampton District – Washington Volunteer Fire Dept., 10 Firehouse Lane, Washington, VA.

201 – Amissville/Jackson District – Amissville Volunteer Fire Dept., 14711 Lee Hwy., Amissville, VA.

301 – Sperryville/Piedmont District – Sperryville Volunteer Fire Dept., 11871 Lee Hwy., Sperryville, VA

401 – Scrabble/Stonewall Hawthorne District – Castleton Volunteer Fire Dept., 593 Castleton View Road, Castleton, VA.

501 – Chester Gap/Wakefield District – Chester Gap Volunteer Dept., 42 Waterfall Road, Chester Gap, VA.

502 Flint Hill/Wakefield District – Flint Hill Volunteer Fire Dept., 945 Fodderstack Road, Flint Hill, VA.

Key Dates

Foothills Forum is an independent, community-supported nonprofit tackling the need for in-depth research and reporting on Rappahannock County issues.

The group has an agreement with Rappahannock Media, owner of the Rappahannock News, to present this series and other award-winning reporting projects. More at foothills-forum.org.

Thursday, Sept. 17 – Absentee ballots for which valid applications have been received and processed will start being mailed out on this day. Applications are only valid if submitted by registered voters.

Friday, Sept. 18 – In-person absentee voting begins at Voter Registration Office, 262-A Gay St., Washington, VA, 540-675-5380.

Oct.13 – Deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration.

Oct. 23 – Applications must be received at Voter Registration Office by 5 p.m. for absentee ballot to be mailed.

Oct. 24 – Voter Registration Office is open on a Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. for in-person absentee voting.

Oct. 31 – Voter Registration Office is open on a Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. for in-person absentee voting. Last day to vote in-person absentee.

Nov. 3 – Election Day. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m.

Voting in-person absentee – What’s required?

A registered voter may vote absentee “in-person” or by mailing in their absentee ballot.

In-person: 

  • Starting Friday, Sept. 18, you may vote early “in-person” at the Voter Registration Office, 262-A Gay St. Washington, VA, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (See Kim McKiernan’s comments above). 

  • Voters do not need to fill out an application or provide an excuse for voting early. 

  • A valid driver’s license or other identification is required. For a list of valid IDs, visit elections.virginia.gov under “casting a ballot,” or call the Office at 540-675-5380.

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By mail:

  • Registered voters must complete and submit an application for an absentee-by-mail ballot no later than Oct. 23. 

  • Applications can be completed online at vote.elections.virginia.gov. A valid Virginia driver’s license or other ID issued by the DMV is required. 

  • Alternatively, the application can be downloaded, printed and mailed, or requested by phone from the county Voter Registration Office. 

  • Mailed ballots must be postmarked on or before Election Day. 

  • Ballots may also be hand-delivered up until 7 p.m. on Election Day at the Voter Registration Office or after hours in the mail slot, or on Election Day in drop boxes at their polling place. Only the person casting the ballot may deliver it and it must be marked, sealed in Envelope B, signed, dated and placed in the provided prepaid postage return envelope exactly as if it were being mailed.

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What if…

Do I need a reason to vote by absentee? 

  • No

Do I need a witness present when I complete my absentee ballot? 

  • No. This requirement has been waived due to the pandemic.

 I decide not to mail in my absentee ballot and vote at my voting precinct? 

  • Bring your unmarked ballot with you and return it to the Election Official.

 I lose my mail-in absentee ballot? 

  • Contact the Voter Registration Office at 540-675-5380.

 I don’t have a Virginia driver’s license? Can I use other forms of ID?

My mail-in ballot arrives late due to postal delivery delays? 

  • Marked, absentee-by-mail ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be counted if they are received at the Voter Registration Office by noon, Friday, Nov. 7.

I go to my voting precinct to make sure my mail-in ballot was counted? 

  • Election Officials at the polling place are only able to verify that you were sent a ballot. Instead, visit the link provided with your mail-in absentee ballot which enables you to track your ballot. For other questions, call the Voter Registration Office.

I want to drop off more than one absentee ballot at the Voter Registration Office, or designated ballot box? 

  • Virginia state law prohibits voters from delivering the ballot of any voter other than themselves.

 I mail in my absentee ballot and then vote at my precinct?

  • It is a felony if a voter attempts to vote twice.


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