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The new year is bringing a major change for the James City County Office of Voter Registration and Elections with the promotion of Dianna Moorman to General Registrar.
Moorman replaces A.J. Cole, who recently resigned from the position after serving for almost 10 years. Moorman will officially take over Jan. 1 and complete Cole’s current term, which ends June 30, 2019.
Born and raised in Corpus Christie, Texas, Moorman moved to Williamsburg, her husband’s hometown, in the early 2000s and began volunteering with the Office of Elections in December 2004.
As an on-call part-time volunteer, Moorman learned the ins-and-outs of simple tasks such as counting and packing forms correctly, having ballots printed and distributing the right materials to the right precincts. Her early experience formed the basis for understanding from the ground up what it takes to run a full election.
“It’s funny because now I find myself doing almost the same thing I was doing when I started, but on a way bigger level,” Moorman said.
Moorman moved from volunteer to a part-time paid position and then on to full-time assistant general registrar by 2006. She took on new responsibilities in that capacity which included making sure candidates have all the paperwork necessary for running for office, ensuring they are informed of the rules and regulations and maintaining their campaign finance records.
Around the office, Moorman also found herself taking on responsibilities such as purchasing, requisitions and serving as a back-up public information official in case of an emergency.
“I’m very much a team player,” Moorman said. “I help where I’m needed.”
Having experience in all of the functions of the Office of Elections made Moorman a particularly qualified candidate when the general registrar position came open. Her transition could not have come at a more momentous time, with the county and commonwealth facing an unprecedented election year on several fronts.
Looming large in everyone’s minds is the fact that 2016 is a presidential election year, which means a high turnout.
“I think of it kind of like cicada voters – they come out of the ground every four years,” Moorman said with a laugh.
Moorman expects that in many ways the 2016 election will look similar to the one that took place eight years ago, due to the fact there is no incumbent running for the presidency.
“I’m likening this election as far as time commitment and voters to 2008 and not 2012,” Moorman says. She estimates that between Sept. 10, 2008 and that November’s election she put in more than 300 hours of overtime, and she and her staff are preparing for a similar grind in the lead-up to this November.
Before she can even begin to think about the general election, Moorman has to prepare for the upcoming primaries, which are slated by both parties for March 1. In particular, the Republican presidential primary will be unlike any her office has dealt with before because of the new requirement that all voters sign a pledge affirming they genuinely identify as a Republican.
This measure, which is aimed at ensuring Democrats or other opposition voters do not purposefully attempt to vote for a less viable or desirable candidate for the Republican nomination, has always been something the party is entitled to implement, said Moorman, but it has not chosen to do so until now.
There will also be potential primaries in June for the U.S. Senate and House of Representative seats up for grabs, and once those are passed Moorman will be going “straight into election mode for the presidential race.”
The run-up to that election will be hectic, but to Moorman it is all worth it as long as things go smoothly Nov. 8.
“The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that fair elections were held in James City County,” Moorman said. “This is the one office that has zero room for error.”
Though she is now leading the charge, Moorman is also quick to point out how much support she receives from her colleagues.
“I cannot say it enough that the staff here is why this office runs so smoothly,” Moorman said. “We work so well together and have a great time. That’s the saving grace.”
With more than a decade of involvement with the Office of Elections, Moorman has witnessed and been a part of numerous changes to the department. One change she has been particularly proud of is her work toward making the elections process more streamlined and technologically advanced.
“We now have electronic poll books. Everything is now computer regulated and monitored,” Moorman said. “It’s been interesting to see what tech is out there and trying to figure out what the best way to guide the county.”
While being part of the technological strides the county has made is among her biggest accomplishments, Moorman has faced her share of challenges along the way.
Though she has enjoyed seeing the county grow, Moorman cites dealing with population increases as one of the major challenges she has faced. Since she began working for the Office of Elections, the county has grown from 12 to 19 precincts, which has resulted in serious additional logistical considerations.
While growth is challenging, misconceptions in public opinion are a more frustrating obstacle for Moorman. Chief among these misconceptions is the idea that absentee ballots are not counted.
“[That notion] is highly inaccurate,” Moorman said. “I can’t speak for other states, but Virginia counts every single one of the absentee ballots.”
This misconception strikes a cord with Moorman, as one of her particular passions is working with military, overseas and disabled voters to make sure their voices are heard.
Another false belief Moorman finds herself combating is the idea her office does not have much to do outside of Election Day.
“People think we sit here and don’t do anything but two days of the year, when really there’s a litany of responsibilities that no one realizes we have to do,” Moorman said.
Finally, of particular concern this year is the shortage of election officials the county is facing. Paid volunteers are enlisted every year to help ensure voting is going smoothly out at the precincts each Election Day, but currently Moorman’s office is in need of about 50 more officers of election for the next election than they currently have signed up.
Addressing these concerns is high on Moorman’s list for 2016, in addition to the usual responsibilities of making sure the elections go off without a hitch.
As for looking further down the road, there are several projects Moorman hopes to tackle once she has a bit of breathing room. She hopes to eventually bring on another full-time employee and to reorganize some of the office duties to make things run more efficiently, and is also anticipating the office will be physically relocating to a different space before too long.
Moorman anticipates that working with absentee and disabled voters will continue to be something she is especially passionate about, as well. While she is proud the county has several programs in place to make voting easier for these groups, she hopes to shed more light on these initiatives in the coming years and make these groups of voters more aware of what is available to them.
“It’s all different tasks, but our level focus for everything is the same,” Moorman said. “I’m hoping to continue with what A.J. was doing and build off of the good programs he had in place.”