Waynesboro’s Electoral Board recommended Wednesday that the city open just one polling location for the May 19 municipal election, Westwood Hills Elementary, which is not currently a voting location for any of the city’s four wards.
Residents of Ward A would usually vote at Basic United Methodist Church and Ward D at Westminster Presbyterian Church. However, both churches have not permitted the city approval to use their locations this election.
The recommendation to use Westwood Hills, which is subject to Waynesboro’s City Council approval, was made because the school is within one mile of each of the four wards boundaries — making it a central location for all Waynesboro voters. In addition, the city would have enough volunteers to work one site.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Waynesboro voters who choose to vote in person will have to follow social distancing procedures and adhere to a 10-person gathering limit inside the building on Election Day. The Electoral Board discussed plans on Wednesday to have volunteers sanitize the polls in between each voter.
The Electoral Board further requested immediate action from the City Council, as well as asked the city to finance the cost of printing and mailing a letter to all 13,650 registered voters notifying them of the temporary move. The board recommended including an absentee ballot application with each mailed letter.
As of Wednesday morning, 1,209 absentee ballots had been requested and 541 ballots had been returned. In comparison to the 2016 election, 2,300 total votes were cast in the city. Of those 2,300 votes, only 64 were absentee ballots.
The city is still encouraging residents to vote absentee in this election. All voters are eligible to vote absentee using code “2A” because of the pandemic. Voters can apply online for an absentee ballot at vote.elections.virginia.gov, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by faxing the online application to (540) 942-6501. Because it is faster, Waynesboro Voting Registrar Lisa Jeffers encourages requesting an absentee ballot online.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, May 12, by 5 p.m.
Gov. Ralph Northam had originally asked lawmakers to consider a plan that would move the May 5 election to Nov. 3. That plan would have discarded all absentee ballots already cast and extended the current term of elected officials. The Senate, however, opted to pass Northam’s plan at their veto session, effectively killing the idea.
In response, Northam exercised his statutory authority to push the elections back two weeks to May 19. Under current state law, the governor can postpone an election by 14 days without approval from the legislature.
According to data kept by the Virginia Public Access Project, 16 cities and 99 towns are impacted by the change of date to municipal elections in Virginia.