Connect with us

Government

Despite pandemic, some Virginia registrars report surge of poll workers

Several places in Virginia say they’ve seen a surge in people applying to be Election Day-workers, despite initial concerns there would be a shortage.

Capital News Service

Published

on

By Will Gonzalez

The U.S. is facing a nationwide poll worker shortage, Gov. Ralph Northam said in a Tweet posted in early September urging Virginians to apply for the position. Some districts expected a shortage because they anticipated high turnout. Poll workers fulfill a variety of part-time and full-time roles, from assisting with absentee ballot distribution, answering phone calls, supervising early voting, and helping at the polls on Election Day.

Before polls opened last week, Virginia Beach said it needed 1,200 poll workers this year instead of the 800 they usually have, according to CBS-3 (WTKR-TV).

On the other hand, Arlington County, posted online that it has filled “beyond capacity” its need for poll workers in its 54 precincts. No shortage of poll workers is expected in Fairfax County, which will have more than 3,800 election officers to work the county’s 243 polling locations, about half of which are first-time poll workers, according to Brian Worthy, a Fairfax County spokesperson. The county’s 3,800 workers this year is about 500 more than it had in the last election, and extra staff is on hand to process the mail-in ballots.

“Unlike other jurisdictions that I’ve heard may be having difficulty recruiting election officers, Fairfax County has experienced a very strong interest from people who want to serve,” Worthy stated over email. “In fact, we’ve had about ten times the normal number of people apply to become election officers.”

Recruiting poll workers is also not an issue in Orange County, located 20 miles from Charlottesville. Donna Harpold, the county’s director of elections and general registrar, said she doesn’t know if being in a smaller county impacts volunteer availability compared to Northern Virginia.

“They obviously have the population advantage, but that may also lead to people being more wary of serving due to exposure concerns,” Harpold wrote in an email.

 Lisa Betterton, the general registrar and director of elections in Isle of Wight, which has roughly 37,000 residents, said the Hampton Roads county has plenty of poll workers.

Poll workers and voters have expressed concern over potential exposure to the COVID-19 if polls are crowded on Election Day. Many people who volunteer at polling places across the country are retirees, the most at-risk demographic for serious complications and death from the disease. Election officials in Washington D.C. decided this year that working at a poll will count toward the community service hours required to graduate high school in the district.

Breaking with the tradition of voting on Election Day, Virginia’s top officials cast their votes on Sept. 18, the first day polls were open. Northam emphasized voters will have “several safe and easy ways” to vote. Over 164,000 residents hit the polls within the first week, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Virginia has allocated federal CARES Act funding to ensure that election officers have personal protective equipment and Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will assist at polling places to ensure social distancing and sanitization measures are followed, according to Northam’s office.

Voters are required to wear masks. In order to limit physical interaction between individuals and to avoid voters sharing pens, Fairfax County will provide voters with “I voted” pens that they can use to fill out their ballots and keep instead of offering stickers.

The General Assembly passed several bills in the spring to make voting easier, such as turning Election Day into a state holiday, no excuse required to vote absentee, and allowing early voting 45 days ahead of the election. Residents may vote early at their local registrar’s office from Sept. 18 to Oct. 31, or request a mail-in absentee ballot until Oct. 23, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Comments

comments

The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Downtown

Stoney administration proposes surplus funds to address three public health needs in city

The Stoney administration, working alongside Richmond City Health District, has proposed $500,000 of special-purpose reserves from the projected FY2020 budget surplus go to funding three distinct public health efforts in the city.

RVAHub Staff

Published

on

The Stoney administration, working alongside Richmond City Health District, has proposed $500,000 of special-purpose reserves from the projected FY2020 budget surplus go to funding three distinct public health efforts in the city.

The mayor is proposing the following:

  1. $200,000, Resource Center Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Pilot, partnering with Richmond City Health District, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority. The yearlong pilot will fund a full-time clinician, a licensed substance use disorder counselor, and a peer recovery specialist to work out of RCHD’s resource centers and provide necessary services to residents in their communities.
  2. $150,000, Richmond Doula Fund, partnering with Richmond City Health District. The Doula Fund will reimburse doulas for services and fund doula training with the goal of decreasing racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes.
  3. $150,000, Gun Violence Prevention Framework, partnering with Richmond City Health District. These funds will support the development of a hybrid gun violence prevention model based on national best practices and community input. With this funding, the model will be finalized in early 2021.

“The pandemic has highlighted a troubling network of health disparities that threaten the quality of life for many Richmonders,” said the mayor. “With these three proposed allocations, Richmond City Council has the opportunity to support our effort to address these disparities, building a healthier city for all.”

The Richmond City Council will discuss the potential allocations at the informal meeting on Monday, October 12. The council will have the opportunity to reach a consensus on using surplus funds to support these three innovative and detailed public health efforts.

Mayor Stoney indicated on September 15, 2020, that he would propose special-purpose reserves be allocated in part to address health disparities in the city. All three of the above projects aim to allocate more resources to historically underserved communities.

For more details on the three efforts this allocation would fund, click here.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Government

Spanberger, Freitas race outspends presidential campaign in Virginia 

A closely contested congressional race has spent almost $1.7 million more on political advertisements in Virginia than the presidential campaign.

Capital News Service

Published

on

By Brandon Shillingford

A closely contested congressional race has spent almost $1.7 million more on political advertisements in Virginia than the presidential campaign.

More than $11 million has been spent on ads for the Congressional 7th District race. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the incumbent Democrat, faces challenger Nick Freitas, a Republican state delegate. The district includes Culpeper, Chesterfield, Henrico and Nottoway counties.

Meanwhile, more than $9 million has been spent in Virginia this year on ads for the presidential election between Republican President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. The data posted on the Virginia Public Access Project’s website includes money spent on broadcast TV, cable, radio, and internet ads.

This is Spanberger’s first re-election campaign, after defeating two-term Republican incumbent Dave Brat in 2018.

“The 7th District of Virginia is one of the marquee congressional elections in the country and is drawing very significant amounts of money,” said Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Fredericksburg-based University of Mary Washington Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “Virginia may not be getting the attention it received four or eight years ago, but the 7th District is one of three highly competitive congressional districts in Virginia.”

The Democrats have outspent more Republican candidates in both races. More than $6.6 million has been invested in ads that are either pro-Spanberger or anti-Freitas, while there has been $4.4 million invested in ads that promote Freitas or criticize Spanberger.

Biden and groups supporting him have spent more than $6 million on ads compared to nearly $3 million spent to promote Trump.

Farnsworth sees this as less of an anomaly but more of a continuing strategy in presidential campaigns.

“The nature of the way the state has changed over these last several election cycles, new donations to presidential campaigns would be better off being directed to states that are more competitive, like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin or Ohio,” he said. “Polls have shown Virginia wouldn’t be the best place to spend your presidential campaign dollars in 2020.”

Other closely contested congressional races are the 2nd District in Hampton Roads and the 5th District, which stretches from Fauquier County in Northern Virginia to Danville in Southern Virginia. Democrats have also outspent their opponents in these races.

“All three districts are winnable for the Democrats and Republicans, and this results in a very large amount of donations and large sums of money spent on advertisements,” Farnsworth said.

More than $8 million has been spent on ads in the 2nd Congressional District, while more than $4 million has been spent in the race for the 5th Congressional District.

The 5th District has also been in the headlines lately due to Republicans declining to re-nominate incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman after he officiated a same-sex wedding in 2019. Republicans instead nominated Bob Good who won the primary and is running against Democrat Cameron Webb.

However, the 7th District is unique because of the different segments of the electorate that live within it, making it an invaluable asset to candidates, Farnsworth said.

“You have suburban voters in the Richmond area and suburban voters in the Fredericksburg area, then a number of more rural jurisdictions in between,” he said.

Farnsworth pointed out that the 7th District was originally drawn to help Republicans get elected, but has recently struggled to do so due to the lack of support from suburban voters during the Trump administration. Over $4 million was spent on broadcast ads to elect Spanberger in 2018, with spending for Brat’s campaign trailing behind at just over $3 million.

“One of the effects of the Trump presidency has been increasingly aggressive donations on the part of Democrats,” he said. “The 7th District is a highly competitive district, that’s why both Democrats and Republicans are investing very large sums of money in that contest.”

The most money in the 7th District race has been invested in broadcast ads, followed by cable, radio and Facebook, respectively, according to VPAP.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Government

New poll shows Virginia voters strongly support police reform

A recent poll finds Virginia voters strongly support police reform and nearly half of respondents say Joe Biden would handle the pandemic better than President Donald Trump.

Capital News Service

Published

on

By Megan Lee

A recent poll finds Virginia voters strongly support police reform and nearly half of respondents say Joe Biden would handle the pandemic better than President Donald Trump.

 The Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University released the poll Sept. 29 following a poll earlier that month which found Biden is leading Trump by 5 points among the state’s likely voters.

The poll surveyed 796 registered Virginia voters by landline and cell phone. The Wason Center is 95% confident that the projected populations of those surveyed in this poll are accurate within a 3.9% margin of error, said Wason Center Research Lab Director Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo.

Of those surveyed, 29% identify as Republican, 34% as Democrat, and 32% as Independent. The remaining 6% had no preference, identified with another party, or did not respond.

Bromley-Trujillo said the center chose to focus on two key issues among voters: police reform and the pandemic. The poll asked about police reform opinions in response to the civil unrest seen across the country since May. Protests began around the nation after the death of George Floyd and in response to a series of fatal encounters between police and Black individuals. Protests swelled again recently after a grand jury did not indict any officers with the death of Kentucky woman Breonna Taylor. The protests have demanded more accountability within police operations.

More than 90% of respondents supported de-escalation training for police, requiring police body cameras, and mandating police officers intervene when a colleague uses unlawful force.

A majority of Republicans say police are either excellent or good regarding the equal treatment of racial and ethnic groups, while a low percentage of Democrats agree (62%-9%). Females rated police lower on this question than males.

When asked if civilian oversight boards should be created to investigate police misconduct, 70% of voters supported the proposal.

Just over 75% of voters supported both the requirement of police departments to publicly report incidents involving the use of force and the establishment of a public database to track police officers found responsible for misconduct.

“I was somewhat surprised by the level of agreement on some of the police reform measures,” Bromley-Trujillo said. “Though the public is very polarized, there are still places where they show agreement.”

Voters are also divided when it comes to allowing civilians to sue police officers for excessive force or misconduct (52% say it should be allowed and 44% say it should not be). Voters narrowly oppose banning police use of military-grade weapons (50%-47%).

Recent state legislation reflects this voter interest in police reform and criminal justice. Bills establishing a statewide system that pairs teams of mental health professionals and peer recovery specialists with police officers and the automatic expungement of certain convictions are examples of legislation that have advanced in the Virginia General Assembly in the last two months.

Almost half of surveyed voters believe Biden would handle COVID-19 issues better than Trump, while 36% thought the opposite. The remaining 11% said neither candidate would be good.

The poll found that a majority of respondents said the U.S. is loosening COVID-19 restrictions too quickly, and 41% said the country is taking too long. Democrats and Republicans are strongly divided over the country’s rate of reducing COVID-19 restrictions; 86% of Democrats said restrictions are being reduced too fast, while nearly 75% of Republicans said it is taking too long.

The poll was sent out before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, which is why opinions on Supreme Court confirmations were not surveyed, said Bromley-Trujillo.

In order to hone in on police reform as much as possible, Bromley-Trujillo said the center did not explore the economy, healthcare, climate change, and immigration. However, she noted voters mention these topics as reasons to choose a candidate.

“The wildfires in the West have also highlighted the issue of climate change, and I suspect that immigration and other issues will come back to the forefront as related events occur and as political elites, the public and interest groups raise them,” Bromley-Trujillo said.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Richmond Weather