State steps in to help run Buckingham County Elections Office

Published 1:58 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

DILLWYN – The Buckingham County Elections Office is open for business. That part isn’t unusual. Residents can come in, register to vote, pick up forms to run for office and handle any other election related business from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. What’s not normal is that the Buckingham County registrar isn’t running the office. Currently, officials from the Virginia Department of Elections are handling that. 

“The Department of Elections (ELECT) did receive requests of assistance from several sources,” said Andrea Gaines. She works as external affairs manager for the Virginia ELECT. As for how long state help will be needed, that question is still up in the air. 

“We do not have a specific time identified for when our staff will leave Buckingham,” Gaines said. 

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The reason for that is because as of Monday, March 20, Buckingham Registrar Lindsey Taylor resigned her position. We don’t have specifics as to why she resigned, because neither state, local or Buckingham County Circuit Court officials can provide a copy of her letter, only acknowledging that she did in fact step down from her role. 

Local officials have known for weeks the decision was a possibility, as the Buckingham Electoral Board declined to renew Taylor’s contract, which expires June 30. The board made that announcement during their Friday, March 10 meeting. 

“She has three options for her contract,” Electoral Board member Dr. Karen Cerwinski said during the March 10 meeting, speaking of Taylor. “She’s a smart person and she will pick the right option.”

The first was to serve the remainder of the term until June 30. The second was to set a time to step away and the third was to immediately tender a resignation.   

Buckingham County Elections Office closed

In Virginia, state law requires registrars to serve four-year terms. You can find that in Section 24.2-110 of the Virginia Code. At the end of that term, the city or county’s electoral board decides whether to reappoint the person or let them go. But in Buckingham, change in the registrar’s position isn’t something people have had to deal with over the last three decades. Taylor’s predecessor, Margaret Thomas, served seven terms, adding up to more than 28 years, before retiring in 2019.

Already without a deputy registrar, there was no one to run the Buckingham County Elections Office, so the office closed for a few days last week. While residents couldn’t physically come in and get registration forms or any other documentation, the materials were still available on the county’s website during this period.

But with no one to fill the position, the state was called in to help. Also during this time, Gail Braxton, one of the three members of the Buckingham County Electoral Board, tendered her resignation. The Herald has tried to reach both Braxton and the remaining Electoral Board members, but has been unable to do so over the last week.

Finding replacements  

Now there are rules to follow in order to fill Gail Braxton’s seat on the Electoral Board. Virginia Code Section 24.2-106 says “in the appointment of the electoral board, representation shall be given to each of the two political parties having the highest and next highest number of votes in the Commonwealth for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election. Two electoral board members shall be of the political party that cast the highest number of votes for Governor at that election.” 

In this case, that means a Republican majority, which Buckingham has with Dr. Cerwinski and Sandy Banks-Bertwell. It also means the third member must be a Democrat. As for who chooses a replacement, the Virginia Code is pretty clear on that too. From the same section mentioned above, the Code states that “the members shall be appointed by the chief judge of the judicial circuit for the county.” The replacement will then serve out the rest of Braxton’s term on the board. 

As for the registrar, state officials say they’re working with the Electoral Board to put out a posting. There are a couple options here. First, the Electoral Board can appoint someone to fill the position in an interim role until the current term ends June 30. As this person would be stepping in as candidate filings close in April at the earliest, they would have to catch up quick and manage the primaries in June, both state and local. Or the state officials could remain through the primary and that June 30 date, with a registrar appointed afterward. Either way, the offices remain open and residents can go about their business. 

Several elections coming up 

As for the elections, there are quite a few for Buckingham County residents. In addition to the District 10 State Senate seat and the District 56 House of Delegates seat, Buckingham voters will be casting ballots for Clerk of the Court, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheriff, Commissioner of the Revenue, Treasurer, Soil and Water Directors and all seats on both the Buckingham County School Board and the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors.

Residents in the Town of Dillwyn can add a couple more races to that, as they’re voting for both a mayor and a town council.