Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The work doesn’t stop at the Registrar’s Office after elections are done. It keeps going, fully staffed or not

While the November elections put a host of new leaders in position for the local area, the James City County’s Registrar’s Office is already preparing for the next election.

“People don’t recognize that we work more than two days out of the year,” said Dianna Moorman, director of elections and general registrar for James City County. 

While the goal of the office is always to get more eligible voters registered and casting their ballots, there has been a huge shift in the workload since the locality made online registration available in 2015. 

According to data from the Registrar’s Office, the office’s total transactions in 2015 were 13,558. But in 2016, the number skyrocketed to 30,064 and has stayed around that number since then. However, the size of staff has remained the same.

Moorman said she is in the process of requesting more staff but in the meantime, the employees are working late, remaining organized and most importantly, finding ways to remain precise.

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“We are the only office that has zero room for error,” she said. “If we don’t get it right the first time, we don’t have the luxury of going back and telling a voter three months later that we’re going to go ahead and let you vote now.”

For each individual registrant entered into the system, employees in the Registrar’s Office have to check to make sure the information is correct and accurate. Moorman said more often than not, this involves some investigative work because it’s not uncommon for people to get their numbers transposed or switched when entering their Social Security, date of birth or other information. 

Staff also has to go through the process of scanning the card and attaching it to their record to make sure there is as much information on each voter as possible.

“It’s important to be precise just for the simple fact of the voters attending election day with their information,” she said. “If we don’t enter it correctly, that’s a huge problem.”

With the process needing to be so precise and timely, Moorman said there is still a goal of getting more residents not only registered to vote, but out to the polls on election day.

In the most recent election, the number of people who registered in James City County was 58,190 but the number who actually voted in the election was only 29,618. 

While those numbers are still strong for the locality, she said it still shows there is more work to be done in engaging residents in the elections. However, she said the presidential elections tend to show a much greater interest.

“I think as we get closer to the presidential election, you’ll see a lot more people come out who hadn’t previously,” Moorman said.

For example, during the last presidential election there were a total of 43,520 residents who came out to vote. The number of voters who were 66 and older was 14,687 and the number of younger voters between the ages of 19 and 21 was 1,113.

Those numbers are drastically different from the 2019 election, with only 29,618 total voters. The largest amount of voters were age 66 and older at 12,872 and the least were in the younger population with only 403 residents between the ages of 19 and 21 who voted.

Moorman said it can be frustrating sometimes because she wants residents to realize local elections are just as, if not more, important than federal elections.

“I wish there was interest shown throughout the four-year election cycle instead of just the presidential election,” she said. “They don’t realize that local elections have much more of an impact on daily lives.”

Moorman said there are initiatives in the county to try and encourage younger voters to register and to vote, but sometimes it just depends on the election cycle. In addition, there is also an effort to reach residents in more rural areas or those who might not have access to transportation.

The Registrar’s Office has been connecting with the community through podcasts, community events, and by going onto the William & Mary campus.

Moving forward, as the Registrar’s Office prepares for the next big election, Moorman said she expects there to be more participation. With the initiatives for registration and her team working round-the-clock to ensure a secure registration system, she said she’ll be ready for the next election cycle. 

Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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