Thursday, October 30, 2008

Local Election Officials Discuss Preparations for November 4

On Wednesday afternoon, I joined Lee Catlin, the spokesperson for the Albemarle County government, and Will Harvey, secretary of the county's Electoral Board, at a news conference where we discussed the preparations we are making to make Election Day an efficient and pleasant experience for area voters.

Two local television stations covered the event. WCAV-TV noted on its web site:

"We knew this very early in the year, when the February primary had so much interest, we realized that we would be dealing with record number of voters this year," said Rick Sincere of the Charlottesville Electoral Board.

That's including thousands of newly registered voters, nearly 6,000 in Albemarle County, and 9,000 in Charlottesville. Officials saying that it was apparent early on, that this could be a historical year.

"We had 61% turnout in 2004 and that was pretty much record turnout for a presidential election, we're expecting perhaps 85% turnout," said Sincere.

Another indicator, the large amount of absentee ballots being submitted this election.

"For mail in absentee ballots, we have sent out 3,723, 2,145 of them have come back already," said William Harvey of the Albemarle County Electoral Board.

And as officials continue their preparations for Tuesday, they have some suggestions for voters.

Best time to vote:
9am - 11:30am, 1:30pm - 3:30pm

No political paraphernalia

Know Polling Place

Bring Proper I.D.

Officials saying they will make sure that everyone that's eligible, will have their vote counted.

"We will be conducting a transparent, fair, and clean election. people can be assured that they're votes will be counted," said Sincere.

Here is the video of Mark Tenia's report on Channel 19:

Over on Channel 29, Jenn McDaniel reported:
Charlottesville and Albemarle are both seeing record registration numbers. They've increased the number of election officials to make sure they can deal with the crowds.

In Charlottesville, voters should know they may see different types of ballots but they will all be counted the same way. If, for some reason, you're told you can't vote, push a little bit and don't just accept that as an answer.

"The electoral board takes the attitude that we want every vote to count and if there's a way we can find that they are properly registered than that's what we'll do," said Albemarle County Electoral Board's Will Harvey.

If you show up wearing a button, shirt or hat saying vote for a certain candidate, you'll be asked to take it off. It's not allowed within 40 feet of a polling place. If you don't, you can still vote but a report will be filed with the commonwealth's attorney.

The best times to vote are between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Also, remember to take a driver's license, social security card, government ID or some other kind of acceptable identification.

Here is the video of McDaniel's story:

For some reason, the only tidbit the Daily Progress gleaned from our news conference was in regard to the State Board of Elections' clarification of the rules for the restricted 40-foot zone around polling places, the zone in which electioneering is not allowed:
Voters at polling places who refuse to remove buttons, T-shirts or other apparel with political messages will face possible misdemeanor charges, local election officials said Wednesday.

Election Day workers in Charlottesville and Albemarle County have been told to ask voters wearing political clothing or a button to either cover it up or remove it.

The move is part of a newly clarified state guideline that bans all such exhibitions of campaign material at Virginia’s polling places.

Two Charlottesville-based groups along with the Virginia ACLU said Wednesday that they will sue over the policy, asserting that it is a violation of free speech.

If the voter does not agree to cover or remove the political apparel, the poll workers must file an incident report with the commonwealth attorney’s office for possible prosecution.

Even if a voter refuses to remove his campaign button or T-shirt, he will still have the opportunity to vote.

“No one will be refused the right to vote for violating this policy,” said Rick Sincere, chairman of Charlottesville’s Electoral Board.

The law banning campaign material at polling places has been on the books for “generations,” Sincere said. In the past, he added, voters have generally been happy to comply.

Fellow blogger Tim Hulsey was on hand with my video camera to record the whole news conference; unfortunately, the tape ran out earlier than expected, so all that he captured was Will Harvey's opening remarks and a portion of my opening remarks. The Q&A is lost in the ether.

Here is Will Harvey of the Albemarle County Electoral Board, introduced by Lee Catlin:

And here I am, trying not to repeat the same sensible things that Will had to say:

There is also a nice photo of Will and me together on WINA-AM's web site.

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