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Montross eyes moving election day

Montross Town Council discussed moving May elections to November at their Aug. 26 meeting. The move would have several benefits for town residents and would save taxpayer dollars.


Currently, to elect council members, registered voters in Montross vote at Town Hall, biannually in May. For county, state and federal elections held each November, Montross voters report to W&L High School. In her 25 years in office, Westmoreland Voter Registrar Kris Hicks does not ever recall a referendum on the Montross ballot.

During the meeting, Town Manager Brenda Reamy asked the town council to consider moving the May town council elections to November. She reported that voter turnout for town elections has been very low in the last 4 elections. In 2008, the town of roughly 350 residents had 23 voters  That number declined to 17 in 2010; 16 in 2012; and 17 this past May.

Hicks reported the cost of last May’s election to be $1,210.80, which breaks down to roughly $72 per voter.

Out of that figure, the town was charged $122.45 for paper and sample-ballot printing. Hicks said that if town elections are moved to November, the county would pick up the rest of the tab, and only these printing costs would be charged to the town. Hicks estimated
future election printings would not cost more than $200, at most.

Hicks said that the May elections showed a 7% turnout of Montross residents, and the previous November election showed a 37% turnout of 3rd District residents. Although the exact percentage of town residents in that 37% figure is very difficult to determine, Hicks believes moving elections would result in higher voter turnouts. “Citizens are used to voting in November and tend to forget to vote in May.”  

Hicks said that one concern for May elections is that immediately following any election, voting machines are put under lockdown for a period of time. If a June primary follows a May election, this could result in too few machines being available to conduct the primary voting.

Linda Farneth


In retrospect, May elections put more focus on local candidates, and ballots are more compact, Hicks told the council. “However, voter turnout seems to outweigh those advantages.” Hicks added, “Some authorities think that partisan politics might begin to play a part with town elections being held in November, but from everything I’ve read, other registrars in small towns with November elections say, ‘No, it’s not an issue.’”

Council expressed some concern that the county-resident voters would be able to vote on town elections or matters. Hicks explained that officials would check each voter’s address and determine their residency. The electronic voting machines have separate ballot screens, allowing voters to see only on what they are eligible to vote, which voting officials set with one switch, prior to voters entering the booths.

Mayor R. David O’Dell motioned to allow the Town Manager to begin researching what actions are needed to carry out the move. Reamy feels confident the town could carry out the process in time for the 2016 elections.

 

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