Waynesboro’s electoral board voted unanimously Wednesday to support a resolution encouraging the Commonwealth of Virginia to move the May 5 election to mail voting only and not open any in-person polling locations because of COVID-19.
With no guidance yet from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam or the Virginia Board of Elections, the Waynesboro electoral board’s motion will ask the governor to use his executive power to hold May’s election by mail.
“The whole process has to be re-evaluated, and we have a solution. The experts — the electoral board members and the registrars who have been running elections since the beginning — have the expertise and knowledge to know how to handle this. Our recommendation is mail only,” said Robert Horowitz, secretary of the Waynesboro Electoral Board and western district chair of the Virginia Electoral Board Association.
With a mail-only election, everyone becomes an absentee voter, Horowitz noted. Usually, a voter must have a reason to vote absentee. However, state officials have allowed all voters to request an absentee ballot using code 2A because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Elections and the governor will have the final decision on if in-person voting will be suspended in May.
“This is just a motion of support. It doesn’t mean the Waynesboro election is moving to mail-in only, but the motion is an effort to influence their decision,” Horowitz said.
Waynesboro electoral board members discussed several potential issues with opening in-person polling locations, including that a majority of those who work the polls are over the age of 60 and may not want to work on Election Day with the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the city would have difficulty adhering to the 10 person gathering limit and sanitizing each location properly.
In other localities, private areas like churches have decided to not permit the use of their facility as a polling location because of concerns about the novel coronavirus.
There is no set date that the state is set to make a decision on May elections, and the Waynesboro electoral board said until they receive guidance from the state they are continuing to recommend absentee voting.
“The health and well-being of our dedicated staff, as well as our voters, are our number one priority,” Waynesboro voting registrar Lisa Jeffers said in a press release last week. “In an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health and safety of our voters and staff, the Waynesboro city voter registration offices are encouraging the use of absentee by mail.”
April 28 is the last day in which an absentee ballot can be mailed.