The James City County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance to create an absentee in-person voting center at the James City County Recreation Center.
“I want to make sure that this is a permanently established location in order to help calm the voters questions and help give a little bit more voter confidence to the system here in the county,” said Dianna Moorman, director of elections for the county’s Voter Registration & Elections office.
Moorman said they would not be able to accommodate voters at the 5300 Palmer Lane location because of the coronavirus restrictions. She added they predict anywhere from 500 to 1,500 people per day.
The Palmer Lane location will operate as a “vote by mail processing center” but will still accept absentee ballots.
The supervisors spent a majority of the meeting asking Moorman questions about how the voting system would work for the upcoming election going over questions such as how people can vote and what the voting process will look like.
Only one person signed up for the public hearing comment section. Mary Ann Simpson, speaking on behalf of Sudie Watkins from the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters, endorsed the new voting center prior to the supervisors vote.
Moorman said voters have three options: Requesting a mailed ballot and casting their ballot via mail, voting in person starting Sept. 18 through Oct. 31 with a photo ID or voting in person at the precincts on election day.
She said voters who mail in their ballots have until noon on Friday after the election if it is postmarked before election day.
People can still get a “I voted” sticker if they choose to mail in their ballots.
If residents choose to vote early, Moorman said the ballot will have a barcode identifier and residents can look up the code in the USPS system, 10-15 days after mailing the ballot.
Moorman added they plan to have a ballot drop station, a table with representatives from both parties, where voters can drop off their ballot in person.
In addition, Moorman said the office can start “preprocessing” ballot starting the first weekend in October with Democrat and Republican party representatives going through and sorting the ballots and putting them in a box.
Another option is have a ballot box fixed outside to concrete.
The office talked about a ballot box fixed outside on concrete which could be an option, but Moorman noted the office is waiting for directions from the Department of Elections.
“If we have that option for doing that, I certainly insist there is a camera at all times,” Moorman said.
She said she would want the box to be in a “well lit area” and expressed worry about “bad actors” such as a person dropping a match in the ballot box. She suggested the best thing is to do is have the tabletop ballot boxes.
“We are all for the ballot boxes,” Moorman said, adding it would be a tabletop ballot box. “We’re still waiting for guidance from the Department of Elections.”
The registrar got $69,000 from the CARES Act for the voting budget –– about $1.43 per voter, she said.
But there have been some unexpected expenses.
Moorman said they had to spend “quite a few thousand dollars” on envelopes after the Department of Elections wanted them to be “full-color” to make it easier for the mail system and to be more user friendly to voters.
Another issue the registrar’s office has been running into is people filling out ballots mailed from third party organizations.
“There are some third party organizations that just want people to vote,” she said. “They are legitimate applications, we do have them and we do process those.”
She advised voters to be patient and to contact her office if they do not receive a mail-in ballot after Sept. 24-25.
When asked when she expected nationwide elections results, Moorman said there are 50 different factors at play and while she would like to give an answer, she could not.
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