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City, county saw record turnout in 2020 election

Charlottesville and Albemarle County saw record-breaking numbers of voters in the 2020 election cycle.

Albemarle saw 64,883 registered voters cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election, while in Charlottesville 24,430 people voted, according to figures from the city and county registrars’ offices.

Both registrars said this year’s election was historic for a on several levels, including the number of voters, the number of early voters and the cost of the election.

“Overall, it was a bigger operation than normal,” Charlottesville Registrar Melissa Morton said.

Nov. 3 was the first election that allowed for early, no-excuse in-person voting for 45 days prior to the main election day, and local voters took advantage of the opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic also ushered in changes such as drop off boxes

In Albemarle, 79.4% of registered voters cast ballots, and about 67% of those were absentee, early in-person or by mail.

“I think you’d have to go back to before the adoption of the motor voter law to see a higher percentage turnout,” said Albemarle County Registrar Jake Washburne.

In 1996, the National Voter Registration Act, or the “Motor Voter” law was first implemented in Virginia, allowing residents to submit voter registration forms at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles or by mail.

In Charlottesville, nearly 70% of registered voters cast ballots, and about 74% of them were cast absentee, early in-person or by mail.

Registrars said Nov. 3 went smoothly in both localities, as many people had already voted and many new election officials stepped up to fill the spots of older officials at risk for COVID-19.

Washburne said the county had a small incident where two to three men were “driving too fast and honking their horns” at dusk through the parking lots of polling places at Hollymead and Baker-Butler elementary schools. Children were practicing in the athletic fields, and the police were called.

“Nobody got hurt, they’ll probably never catch them, and if that’s the worst thing that happened, we’re probably doing OK,” he said.

Costs related to the election were up this year, Morton and Washburne said.

Morton’s office used city CARES funding to pay for about 40 plexiglass shields at all of the polling places.

Albemarle allocated $80,000 in CARES funding to the elections office. Washburne said that some of the money will be used for the additional election officials.

“I’m sure when everything is added up, it will probably be the most expensive election we’ve had to administer,” he said.

Morton and Washburne said they aren’t sure what future elections will look like.

The line to vote early in Charlottesville was long at times, and Morton said her office is looking for a larger space to hold future early in-person voting.

“This office and the electoral board, we’ll be talking with City Council in the future about possibly getting a larger building space so that we can accommodate all the voters for each election,” she said.

Washburne’s office had gotten approval to move to a space in the Albemarle Square shopping center to allow for more space for early voting, but that plan was scrapped once COVID-19 allowed many county employees in the 5th Street County Office Building to work from home, allowing more open parking spaces for voters.

“We actually got kind of lucky that we were able to run it the way we were, and the only reason for that, in a perverse sort of way, is because of COVID,” he said.

Both the city and county electoral boards certified the local results and sent them to the state earlier this week.

Albemarle Elections

Year Total Registered Total Voted Absentee Ballots

2020 81,683 64,883 43,350

2016 77,203 57,082 7,032

d56bf6b6-2478-11eb-bcd0-6768448a55b7Charlottesville Elections

Year Total Registered Total Voted Absentee Ballots

2020 34,963 24,430 18,038

2016 35,725 22,652 3,256

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Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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