Some Prince Edward County races still not over after Election Day
Published 3:48 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023
It’s going to take a few more days to determine who will be the three Prince Edward County supervisors chosen in this election. The same goes for the Commissioner of Revenue. All four races went down to the wire Tuesday night and were so close winners could change. Why? Well, all the Election Day ballots have been counted. However, that still leaves 1,003 early voting ballots, along with any provisional and absentee left to count.
And each one will make a difference. Take the District 2 Supervisor race, between incumbent Bill Jenkins and Rex Williams. After Election Day, Jenkins held a slight lead, winning with 495 votes to Williams’ 451. That’s just a difference of 44 votes. And then there’s the District 4 race, between current Supervisor Odessa Pride and her write-in challenger, Jessica Southall. Pride finished with 368 votes on Election Day, while Southall had 182. That’s only a 186 vote difference.
Again, we don’t know which races the 1,003 early voting ballots are for. Also, the registrar’s office and election staff have to sort through any provisional ballots used on Election Day, to determine if they’re valid or not. According to Prince Edward Registrar Lynette Wright, mail-in ballots can be received up to the third day following the election, as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day. So with that being the case, it could be next Monday before some of these races go final.
What drove the close races?
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The main issue in both of these races involves flags. In the middle of the county’s fight with Mrs. Carolyn Bowman, about the Confederate flag on her property, the previous board of supervisors put a maximum limit on the size of all flags in Prince Edward County. That happened back on April 12, 2022.
At that point, flags could be no larger than 40 square feet or 5 x 8. Flagpoles, meanwhile, could be no higher than 20 feet. The only way around the flagpole ordinance was through a special use permit. But over the last year, that ordinance has caused headaches for a number of residents, who suddenly learned their American flags were now too big under the county ordinance. It also turns out the limit on a number of flags caused problems in local cemeteries, as to how many American flags were allowed at a person’s grave. These things drew large and very annoyed crowds to the planning commission and board of supervisors’ meetings during the spring, summer and early fall, until it was eventually amended. Rex Williams was one of the residents who repeatedly had asked for supervisors to reconsider their ordinance.
As it stands now, the law in Prince Edward says residents can have three flags, totaling 120 square feet, on one parcel of land. Also, the restriction about a number of flags was removed for all cemeteries in the area. Both Bill Jenkins and Odessa Pride had voted in support of the flag ordinance, which drew support for their opponents.
Another Prince Edward County seat
But the story was a bit different in the third race. This one was for the District 1 seat on the Prince Edward Board of Supervisors. And it was identical to the one that took place one year ago, as the same men were competing for the same seat.
Beverly Booth stepped down from the seat in July 2022 for health reasons. Dr. Peter Gur was chosen to fill the role from July until a special election could be held last November. In that race, Harrison Jones beat Gur, earning the right to serve the rest of Booth’s term, which ends this year.
And so Jones and Gur returned this year to do it again, this time competing over a full term in the District 1 seat. Just like last year, it was Harrison Jones winning, with 443 votes to Gur’s 267. But, just like with the other two races, the margin of victory was so small that it could also be affected by the ballots yet to be counted.
Unlike Jenkins or Pride, Harrison Jones didn’t face the same criticism from local residents, as he led the push in supervisors’ meetings to completely eliminate the flag size restrictions. He also was one of only two, along with David Emert, to vote against the final flag ordinance.
Another close race
Meanwhile, the race to be the Commissioner of Revenue also went down to the wire. In the end, challenger Crystal Hensley finished with 2,655 votes while incumbent commissioner Edna Goldman had 2,598, a mere difference of 57 votes. And again, this is one where votes yet to be counted could play a part.
The main issue here involves tax bills. Residents have complained the last two years, as tax bills have gone out in November. Now, to be clear, no rules were broken. Section 58.1-3912 of the Virginia Code only says that a city or county treasurer has to mail the tax bills “not later than 14 days prior to the due date”. Since taxes are due on Dec. 5 in Prince Edward County, there’s still several weeks left before they’re required to be mailed.
Prince Edward Treasurer Donna Nunnally, who herself ran for and was elected to another term Tuesday night, said each time, her office had been waiting for the data to come from the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office. Nunnally told The Herald her office had received the data for real estate tax bills on Oct. 17, while personal property tax information came in Oct. 23. In each case, the tax bills were put together and sent to the printers, with distribution taking place the first week of November.