Status quo in area for absentee voting hours
Posted: October 30, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Aside from the damage caused by flooding and high winds, Hurricane Sandy could also make its presence felt at the ballot box.
The State Board of Elections instructed registrars Saturday to ease the requirements for absentee voting because of the severe weather.
Any voters concerned that they won’t be able to travel to a polling place on Nov. 6 because of the effects of Sandy should be allowed to vote absentee, explained Winchester Registrar Joyce Braithwaite.
“But it’s not intended as a free-for-all,” she said. “It’s not carte blanche where people can say, ‘I’m afraid of the storm. Let me vote [absentee].’”
To vote absentee by mail, the request application must be received at the voter’s local registrar’s office by 5 p.m. today.
On Sunday, in response to the storm, Gov. Bob McDonnell requested that the hours at state registrar offices be extended to ensure that absentee voters have time to cast their ballot.
Currently, local registrar offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. (Saturday times added)
So far, however, registrar offices in Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties haven’t made any plans to stay open longer.
Braithwaite said she’ll make any decision on extending hours, or temporarily closing the registrar’s office due to the weather, but as of Monday afternoon no changes had been announced.
The Frederick County office plans to maintain normal hours, said Registrar Rick Miller.
“I can’t speculate on what might or might not happen,” he said Monday afternoon.
The Clarke County office also had no immediate plans to close or extend hours as of Monday afternoon, according to Registrar Barbara Bosserman.
Absentee voting is already down in Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties compared to the last presidential election in 2008.
Eight days before the 2008 election, 3,827 local voters had already cast a ballot. This year, only 2,965 voters have done so, according to data from the State Board of Elections obtained by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.
To be eligible to cast an absentee ballot, residents must meet one of 17 requirements, which can be obtained by calling or visiting the local voter registrar’s office.
Eligible voters may complete an absentee ballot application and vote in the registrar’s office or other designated location.
Recent changes to voter identification laws in Virginia are applicable to those casting absentee ballots in person. For a full list of acceptable forms of identification, visit www.sbe.virginia.gov/VotinginPersonor contact the State Board of Elections at 800-552-9745.
The Winchester voter registrar’s office is at 107 N. East Lane (540-545-7910); Frederick’s is at 107 N. Kent St., Suite 102 (540-665-5660); and Clarke’s is at 101 Chalmers Court (540-955-5168).
— Contact Conor Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org