Election 2022: Canvassing begins, Miyares overrules request

Published 1:21 am Thursday, November 10, 2022

FARMVILLE – Tuesday’s election saw some new faces win local seats, with other incumbents keeping their spots. And then, for some write-in campaigns, the wait to find a winner continues. 

In Prince Edward County, officials at the Board of Elections said it could take until Monday to finish canvassing. 

The day after polls have closed, a city or county’s elections official checks the voter registration file, to verify the person’s eligibility to cast a ballot. This is the canvassing process. In two local races, it gets a bit more complicated. Nobody filed in time to get their names on the ballot for Farmville’s Ward A seat. The same was true for the District 1 seat on the Prince Edward County School Board. For both, that means a write-in candidate will win. 

Now when people write your name on the ballot, they could misspell it. Maybe they’re in a hurry or don’t know how you spell it. The Elections Board has to check and see if the candidate in question sent a letter regarding their name. 

“You tell them how you want your name spelled, what names you want to be recognized as,” Prince Edward County Registrar Lynette Wright said in an earlier interview with The Herald. “The reason it’s done is because people can make mistakes and spell it wrong.”

Then it becomes up to the electoral board. They can decide to accept all the names you want counted as yours or reject them. But if you don’t send a letter, the board has to make a judgment call. That’s what happens on the day after the election.

“They have to decide at that point who the voter wanted,” Wright said. “They have to decide what the intent was.”
The board also has to look and see where the person written in by the voter lives. If a voter writes in someone from Ward D, that person can’t be counted for the Ward A seat, for example. All of this is why it takes longer to sort through votes in those races and why a winner wasn’t declared on Election Night. 

Election equipment malfunctioned

Meanwhile, another main story from Tuesday night involved equipment malfunctions, with one causing Virginia’s Attorney General Jason Miyares to step in. 

Multiple counties reported technical issues with new equipment, both in this region and across the state. The problem was that some pollbooks and poll pads, equipment used by workers to check-in voters, malfunctioned. To be clear, none of those malfunctions happened at Prince Edward, Cumberland or Buckingham precincts. 

During a press conference to discuss the election, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Susan Beals acknowledged some of the machines had problems. For example, some of the poll pads went to “sleep” like an iPhone or laptop when not used for an extended period. But also, she added, some of the problems weren’t mechanical. 

“What we have found over the course of the day is that some of that was user error,” Beals said. 

In Nottoway County, poll pads weren’t working for part of the day at all precincts. That led one candidate to request voting hours be extended to 8 p.m. at one location, Blackstone Elementary. Originally, it was granted, however the State Board of Elections asked Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to intervene and overturn the approval. Miyares agreed and voting ended at 7 p.m. at Blackstone, just like the others in the county. 

“The technical issues that affected Nottoway affected all of their precincts,” Beals said. “The candidate had only asked for one precinct’s hours to be extended.” 

That’s why the State Board of Elections asked Miyares to reject the request, Beals said. They didn’t find it fair to only extend hours at one precinct.

What’s next? 

There’s still more work to be done in some races, both on the local and state level. Under Virginia law, absentee ballots have to be postmarked no later than Election Day and arrive the Friday after. But because this Friday is Veterans Day, Beals extended that deadline. Now, absentee ballots will be able to show up in the mail and be counted through next Monday. 

And beyond that, if a race is close enough, there could be a recount. 

“If the margin of victory is less than 1%, then a recount can be requested,” Beals said. “If the margin is less than ½ of 1%, the state pays for it. If it’s higher, the candidate requesting the recount pays.”

 

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