New voter cards coming as Montgomery County deals with election issues
Gov. Bob McDonnell recently ordered new voter cards be sent out statewide as part of a new voter identification law. The new card will replace the multiple, sometimes conflicting cards received by some Montgomery residents last year.
And it’s likely they will be replaced by yet another new set of cards next year, Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, said last week.
In last November’s elections, Montgomery County administered a record 29 different ballots among its 23 precincts, the result of new precinct lines resulting from the 2010 census and overlapping local, state and federal districts.
The multiple ballots were expensive and confusing to administer, and some voters received voter cards from the state that disagreed with the local registrar’s lists. New cards were sent to some residents, but on Election Day, some voters reported they were given the wrong ballots.
State and local officials hoped the General Assembly would approve adjustments to reduce the number of ballots in Montgomery and other counties that suffered similar, but smaller, problems with splits. But after the House of Delegates unanimously approved a bill this year to amend the precinct lines, a state Senate committee buried it.
Habeeb said Wednesday that the bill the House approved was “100 percent non-political” and that it adopted registrars’ suggestions to fix the splits – but did nothing else to adjust districts.
Habeeb said he hopes the legislature will try again next year to reduce the number of split precincts. If the lines are adjusted, voters will get another new card saying what precincts they are in and where to vote.
None of this should affect the elections planned for this year in Montgomery a Republican primary on June 12 and the presidential, congressional and U.S. Senate contests on Nov. 6. That’s because votes for the entire county are counted together in these races.
“It’s not big deal from an electoral standpoint” that the split precincts remain, Habeeb said. “But it starts to cost real money” when new voter cards are printed repeatedly. “And it’s just confusing when people get new cards that tell them something different every year,” he added.
Montgomery County still faces uncertainties, however. In adjusting the precincts to meet the census, the county created the E-3 precinct for many voters from the overcrowded E-1 precinct. Many of the voters affected were Virginia Tech students, and many of them have now been designated as inactive because mailings to them have been returned because they have apparently moved and not kept the registrar’s office updated, Registrar Randy Wertz said.
It is too late for these voters to update their address and qualify for the June 12 primary, Wertz said. Voters marked as inactive have until Oct. 15 to contact the registrar’s office with a new address and renew their eligibility to vote in the November national elections.
A separate issue Montgomery County faces is the temporary move of the E-1 precinct’s polling place from St. Michael’s Lutheran Church to Kipps Elementary School.
The county is required to get federal permission for such shifts, but “we have not heard back from the Department of Justice,” Wertz wrote in an e-mail Thursday. “We will go forward with the move because we have no alternative,” he wrote.
E-1 voters have been notified about the shift, he wrote.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1699