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Waynesboro Voter Guide: Big changes ahead for city voters on Election Day

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There’s a whole lot of change in Waynesboro when it comes to voting in November. From redistricting to moving city elections to November, voters may be scratching their heads on where to vote early or on Election Day.

AugustaFreePress.com is breaking down the changes for you.

Redistricting

A number of voters in Waynesboro have had their wards moved due to redistricting that took place statewide.

According to Lisa Jeffers, the Waynesboro registrar, most changes affected Ward D voters who were moved to Ward B, and Ward B voters who were moved to Ward A.

She said it’s difficult to know exactly how many people were affected by this change.

“City Council votes to approve the redistricting, and they use Census figures to keep the wards as even as possible,” she said. “This includes all people in the wards, not just registered voters. It’s completed based on population.”

City elections moved to November

The Virginia General Assembly enacted a new law moving city elections in Waynesboro and other Virginia localities traditionally held in May to November, to coincide with state and national elections.

This is the first election where the new state law is in place.

This likely will result in a greater turnout for local elections. The May 2020 local election drew just over 2,800 of the city’s 13,500 registered voters, barely 20 percent of the voter base. The last presidential election had more than 10,700 voters, just under 80 percent.

Voting by ward, no longer citywide

Another big change in Waynesboro has to do with how votes are cast for local offices.

Prior to this election, candidates were required to live in the ward they were running for – but everyone in the city was able to cast a vote to determine who was elected.

Mandated by a new state law, only people living in the ward where there is an open seat will get to vote in that election.

In November, that means that you will only vote for local representatives if you live in Ward C or Ward D.

The Ward C City Council seat is currently held by mayor Bobby Henderson, who is not seeking re-election. Two residents have announced their candidacy: Kenneth “Kenny” Lee and Republican nominee Jeremy Sloat. Debra Freeman-Belle is on the ballot unopposed for Ward C for Waynesboro School Board.

The Ward D City Council seat is currently held by Sam Hostetter. The incumbent will face Republican nominee Jim Wood for the seat. Kathryn Maneval and Amber Lipscomb are on the ballot for Waynesboro School Board.

All voters in all wards in Waynesboro will also have the opportunity to vote for the Sixth District of the House of Representatives. The two choices are Democrat Jennifer Lewis and Republican Ben Cline.

Waynesboro Registrar office has moved

Another change, especially for early voters or voters looking to update their information, is that the local registrar office is no longer located in the Gorsuch Building, which also houses city courts.

Per an order by a Circuit Court judge, the building was designated for court purposes only.

The registrar’s office found a new home in the Waynesboro Public Library on Aug. 24. The office is now located in the lower level of the library at 605 Market Ave.

“We are settled, and it has been a work in progress, for sure,” said Jeffers.

She said that they have posted information on the move on the city website, Facebook page and any new voter cards now have the new address printed on them. The state, she said, also sent another voter information mailer to city residents, and the new information was also on that mailer.

“Signage is very visible from Market Avenue, since we are using that address to separate us from the library,” said Jeffers.

Early voting/Absentee voting

Early voting (also known as absentee voting) is already under way and will take place at the library location on Market Avenue – not at the Gorsuch building.

Early voting is available during normal voter registration office hours, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Early voting will also be open on Saturday, Oct. 29, and Nov. 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Nov. 5 is the final day to vote early in advance of the Nov. 8 election.

Voters may also request an absentee ballot by mail.

To date, 1,016 Waynesboro voters have requested ballots by mail, according to Jeffers.

The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is Friday, Oct. 28, at 5 p.m.

Absentee ballots may be dropped off at 605 Market Ave. in Waynesboro. A drop box will be located at all wards on Election Day.

“Early voting has been at a steady pace,” said Jeffers. “As of Friday, 212 have voted in person.”

Where to vote: Ward A polling location permanently moved

Your voter registration card should tell you what ward you vote in and where, but if you have any questions, contact the registrar’s office.

The Ward A precinct has permanently moved to Wenonah Elementary School, according to an alert sent by the city on Sept. 23. According to the alert, the previous location at Basic United Methodist Church is no longer available as the church is closed and for sale.

“Signage will be placed at the old polling place alerting the voters of the new polling place,” Jeffers said.

Postcards have also been mailed to all voters in Ward A to alert them to the location change, and the city website has been updated with the new location for voters.

  • Ward A: Wenonah Elementary School, 125 N. Bayard Ave.
  • Ward B: Waynesboro Public Library, 600 S. Wayne Ave.
  • Ward C: Wayne Hills Elementary School, 941 Fir St.
  • Ward D: Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1904 Mt. Vernon St.

Register to vote on Election Day

Another change this Election cycle is Same Day Registration, or SDR. This new law is effective Oct. 1.

Since voter registration for the Nov. 8 election does not close until Oct. 17, this change really takes effect on Oct. 18, according to Jeffers.

Anyone who shows up to vote early after Oct. 17, or on Election Day, will have the opportunity to cast a provisional ballot.

According to Jeffers, the resident would complete a voter registration application and ballot when they vote. The ballot will be provisional, meaning it would not be inserted into the voting machine. The electoral board would then review whether it should count of not after the election.

The final canvass of the election will not be until Nov. 14, Jeffers said, because of the Veterans Day holiday.

Important dates

Residents looking to register to vote or change their address may do so at the registrar’s office or online at elections.virginia.gov

  • Last day to register to vote: Oct. 17, 5 p.m.*
  • Last day to change address: Oct. 17, 5 p.m.
  • Last day to request an absentee ballot by mail: Oct. 28, 5 p.m.
  • Saturday voting: Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Final day of early voting: Nov. 5, 5 p.m.

* Residents may cast a provisional ballot after this date after filling out a voter registration application

Getting the word out

Jeffers said that many voters seem to be aware of the vast changes coming this election cycle.

However, her office is doing their best to get the word out.

“The Waynesboro Votes Facebook page will be alerting voters to this change,” she said. “The sample ballots for each ward are placed on the city website as well as the Facebook page. Sample ballots are also posted in the early voting site as well.”

Residents who have questions may contact the registrar’s office at (540) 942-6620 or [email protected]

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.