Monday, June 17, 2024

Voter turnout low in James City County

Williamsburg voter Doris Bixler received an "I Voted Today" sticker from Esterine Moyler, an officer of election who has worked at the polls for 33 years. The City of Williamsburg has also experienced low turnout today with only 328 people voting at the Williamsburg Community Building as of 2 p.m. There are 11,000 registered voters in the city. (Kirsten Petersen/ WYDaily)
Williamsburg voter Doris Bixler received an “I Voted Today” sticker from Esterine Moyler, an officer of election who has worked at the polls for 33 years. Only 328 people out of the city’s 11,000 registered voters had cast ballots at the Williamsburg Community Building as of 2 p.m. (Kirsten Petersen/ WYDaily)

Primary election turnout in James City County has steadily increased throughout the day, but has yet to surpass five percent of the voting population.

By 3 p.m. 968 people, or 4.61 percent of the voting population, had voted in the elections—305 in the Democratic primary for the 1st District seat in the Virginia Senate and 663 in the Republican primary for the Virginia 2nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Despite efforts to advertise the election on the county website and in newspapers, turnout has been low, said Dianna Moorman, James City County’s general registrar.

“I think there truly was so much confusion with the last-minute congressional district change that it doesn’t seem like people have had enough time to prepare,” Moorman said.

Redistricting earlier this year moved most Historic Triangle residents out of the 1st Congressional District and into the 2nd Congressional District.

Turnout was good compared to precinct chief David Allen’s expectations at Berkeley D, the newest precinct in James City County. The precinct was formed to accommodate redistricting—two thirds of the former Berkeley A district, estimated to contain 1,046 registered voters, could cast a ballot in the 2nd Congressional District as members of the new Berkeley D district.

By 10:40 a.m., 23 people had voted at the Berkeley D polling place, the James City County Fire Administration building. Only a handful of people were turned away because they were not in the Berkeley D precinct.

“The main complaint we’ve gotten is it wasn’t advertised enough that there was an election today,” Allen said.

As of 1 p.m. only 70 people had voted at the James City County Recreation Center, where residents could vote in either primary.

“We expected a trickle throughout the day,” said precinct chief Paula Perry.

Perry said officers of election had to turn away as many as 15 people because they did not live in a voting district. All residents of the Jamestown B precinct could vote in the 1st District Virginia Senate primary, but only 10 registered voters can cast ballots in the 2nd Congressional District primary.

At Rawls Byrd Elementary School, the polling place for the Roberts D precinct, more than a dozen voters arrived to vote in the 1st District Virginia Senate primary only to learn they could not vote in that election.

“We’re trying to, politely as we can, explain to them the voting we’ll be doing is for the Republican primary,” said precinct chief Clay Fogler. “Unfortunately, some will show up because they’re thinking they can vote for a particular person.”

While Democratic candidate Monty Mason currently represents the Roberts District in the Virginia House of Delegates, that area is not included in the Virginia Senate’s 1st District.

“I’d rather they have the surprise now than in November,” Fogler said, referring to the November general election.

Officers of election stood outside the poll to remind voters of the single primary race. Around 11 a.m. turnout had surpassed 100 and Allen said he was “rooting to outdo” their expectations and request more ballots.

Polls are open until 7 p.m. tonight. Voters must bring a valid photo ID, which could be a Virginia driver’s license or another government ID.

Elizabeth Hornsby contributed reporting. 

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