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Scottsville voters pick mayor, town councilors as pandemic rages

SCOTTSVILLE — Lindsay Brown was the seventh person to cast her vote in the Town of Scottville on Tuesday.

Only a handful of residents ventured into the lobby of Victory Hall Theater to cast their ballots for mayor and town council.

“I wanted to do an absentee vote, but didn’t want to submit my Social Security number via a mail in ballot,” Brown said. “And to be quite honest, I’d forgotten and I had come down for coffee and saw the signs so said, ‘I absolutely have to come and vote.’”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, of 70 town residents voted in Tuesday’s election, more than 40 residents voted absentee, according to Albemarle Registrar Jake Washburne.

“We’re thankful so many voted absentee and we hope this continues into the June election,” he said Tuesday night.

Ron Smith was elected mayor with 58 votes. Incumbent town councilors Daniel Gritsko, Laura Mellusi, Zachary Bullock, Stuart Munson and Edward Payne, as well as newcomer Jim Tocci, all won seats.

Gov. Ralph Northam asked the General Assembly to postpone May municipal elections to November to protect the health and safety of residents during the pandemic, but the amendment failed. Northam then delayed the election day by two weeks.

Nola Rich, the Scottsville precinct elections chief, said town elections are typically held in the council chambers upstairs in the building.

“But we decided that given that we weren’t expecting a lot of in-person voters that we would go here and we would avoid having people going up and down the stairs,” she said.

When a voter came in, they put their ID on a table for Rich to check and verify their address. Rich then relayed that to the poll book officer to mark. The voter then walked to the concession stand area, where a ballot and a single-use pen from the state was placed for them to vote. After marking their ballot, the voter put the ballot in the scanner and then walked out either door.

Rich said the state had provided some paper masks, and one elections manager had made masks for the officers at the polls.

“So far, we’ve only had one at a time,” Rich said at around 12:30 p.m. “But if we were to have more than one voter, we would ask that they come in and vote one at a time, that way my three officers and I can keep distance from each other and the voters.”

In the 2018 town elections, just 57 people voted; 126 people voted in the 2016 Scottsville elections.

Earlier this year, Gov. Northam approved a bill that allows the town council and mayoral seats to switch to staggered four-year terms.

The mayor and the three town council candidates receiving the greatest number of votes will serve terms of four years, while three town council candidates receiving the next greatest number of votes will be elected for two-year terms.

If the official numbers stay the same as Tuesday night’s unofficial numbers, Smith, Mellusi, Bullock, and Payne will serve four years, while Gritsko, Munson and Tocci will serve for two years.

Mellusi received 53 votes, Bullock received 52 votes and Payne received 50 votes.

Munson received 49 votes, Gritsko received 44 votes and Tocci received 42 votes.

Charlotte Staton-Joyner, who was on the ballot against Smith for mayor, received nine votes. One write-in vote was cast for mayor.

Matthew Thacker, who was not elected to town council, received 25 votes. Six write-in votes were cast for the council.

Rich said this election was a practice for the June Primary.

As of Monday, Washburne said the county had mailed out 3,536 ballots for the Democratic Primary and have had 72 returned. An additional 353 ballots were mailed out for the Republican Primary, and 15 have been returned.

Albemarle has 75,383 registered voters as of May 1.

“So we’ll see how many of those actually come to vote in person,” Rich said.


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