The COVID-19 pandemic changed Waynesboro's voting sites from four to one Tuesday, but did not discourage voters from coming out.
Curbside voting was available for residents age 65 and older, while social distancing requirements were adhered inside Kate Collins Middle School where voters from all four wards cast their ballots for three city council and three school boards seats.
“Numbers are going up,” said Rob Horowitz, secretary of Waynesboro’s electoral board, at Kate Collins Middle School on Tuesday afternoon. “We’re in a completely different pattern than we normally are.”
Horowitz said a steady flow of voters came to the voting site for all four wards on Tuesday.
Despite 1,855 absentee votes already counted before Tuesday and 500 to 600 voters coming to Kate Collins Middle by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Horowitz was a little disappointed in the turnout.
“As wonderful as this is, it should be better,” Horowitz said.
On Tuesday, 2,831 residents voted, which is 20.59 percent of the city's 13,747 registered voters and about 2 percent higher than in 2016. Of the 2,831 votes, 1,868 were cast with absentee ballots.
In the 2016 election, 2,300 out of 12,500 residents voted with 75 being absentee.
“This is the only [location] that satisfied all four [wards],” said Elizabeth Bouldin-Clopton, chair of Waynesboro’s electoral board, of the choice for all wards to vote at the middle school. “We wanted to make it as easy for folks as possible,”
Tuesday’s polling site had to be within one mile of each ward.
Horowitz said he appreciates the cooperation of city council, Waynesboro Schools, residents and the community in making Election Day go smoothly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bouldin-Clopton said each ward was required to have its own separate and defined space inside the middle school.
“We’re operating like a supermarket under the COVID restrictions,” Bouldin-Clopton said of tape on the floor directing voters to enter and exit voting wards, and the fact that no more than 50 individuals were allowed inside the school at any given time.
According to Bouldin-Clopton, city elections and single-party primaries “are usually our lowest turnout.”
“The voters are coming, and that’s a good thing," Bouldin-Clopton said. "We’re very pleased."
She was surprised with the number of absentee ballots received for Tuesday’s election.
“We’re seeing a pretty high level of the civic engagement process,” she said.
Bouldin-Clopton added she hopes momentum for civic engagement carries over into the primary on June 23 and the presidential election on Nov. 3.
Ten officers of elections came over from Albemarle County upon Waynesboro’s request to help on Election Day, Bouldin-Clopton said.
“What a great outpouring of community support from another community to help us when we’re in need,” she said.
If necessary, Kate Collins Middle will serve as the city’s polling site for the Republican primary on June 23.