When early voting starts Friday for the upcoming June primary, approximately 35 voters who live in a small sliver of northwestern Albemarle County will be the only county residents eligible to vote.
After state redistricting late last year, the 7th Congressional District in Virginia now includes a small portion of Albemarle. Six candidates are on the ballot for the 7th District’s Republican primary June 21. The rest of the county is in the 5th Congressional District, which does not have any primaries this year.
The tiny tract led to a gimmick Twitter account called, accurately enough, Small Sliver of Albemarle. The account asked the existential question “why do I exist?” which it answered with “I was needed for population purposes.” The sliver also has claimed ownership to a verse of John Denver’s 1970s hit, “Country Roads.”
The account has 373 followers, more than three times the sliver’s approximately 110 residents and 100 times the sliver’s 35 people who are registered to vote. The sliver’s voters make up about two-hundredths of a percent of the voters in the district. Those nearly three-dozen voters have 45 days to vote, which gives each registered voter their own day to cast a ballot. That’s if everyone registered turns out, however.
“With a June primary, the average turnout is 10%, so, I don’t know, we might get four votes, five?” said County Registrar Jake Washburne said. “It’s just really strange.”
Alan Ferguson, who lives in the sliver on Mission Home Road, said he will likely vote in the primary, but he thinks that all of the Republican candidates are too closely aligned with former President Donald Trump for his liking.
“I’d say that I’m a Liz Cheney, John McCain Republican, so until such time as these are the type of candidates the Republican party is promoting, I will be voting Democrat,” he said in am email. “Abigail Spanberger’s policies do not give me any reason to change my plans.”
On the primary ballot are former teacher Gina R. Ciarcia, former Green Beret combat veteran Derrick M. Anderson, Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors member David Ross, Chair of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors Crystal L. Vanuch, state senator Bryce E. Reeves and Prince William County Board of Supervisors member Yesli I. Vega.
The winner will face Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a two-term Democrat, in the Nov. 8 general election.
The state now allows no-excuse voting by mail and early voting and early in-person voting. Early in-person voting for the primary starts Friday and ends the Saturday before the election.
Albemarle voters can cast an early ballot at the 5th Street County Office Building at 1600 Fifth Street in the registrar’s office during normal business hours, from 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until June 17.
Registered county voters from the sliver can also vote early at the same location from 8:30 a.m. through 5 p.m. on two Saturdays — June 11 and June 18.
The deadline to register to vote in the June primary or update an existing registration is May 31. The deadline to apply for a ballot to be mailed is June 10.
On Election Day, registered voters in the sliver can cast their ballots at Free Union Country School, 4200 Free Union Road.
“We have to have three election officers at a precinct, so our veteran John Shepard and his two assistants are going to go up there on June 21 with a lot of books and probably a deck of cards,” Washburne said.
After redistricting, Albemarle had to get an exception to have Free Union be a split precinct from the Virginia Department of Elections.
“This fall, when there will be a county-wide election, we’re just going to have the folks at Free Union Precinct be very, very much on the alert — of your 1,500 to 2,000 registered voters, you have 35 that are going to have to have a different ballot style,” Washburne said. “Don’t give them the wrong ballot.”
“One thing I think I can assure you is that we’re not going to run out of ballots this time,” he said, poking fun at how his office ran out of ballots at some precincts during the last election.
But Washburne, who was appointed registrar in 2006, won’t have to worry too much about the November election. The little sliver primary will be his last election as registrar before he retires in August.
“My literary daughter said, ‘Oh, so this is like T.S. Eliot., This is the way your tenure ends, not with a bang but a whimper,’” he said. “Yeah, I guess.”