CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- When it comes to elections and how they are run, some American voters have had plenty of questions the past couple of years due to disinformation and a hyper-charged political climate.
On Wednesday, a little over a week before voting begins in the Commonwealth, Chesterfield County election officials held two information sessions to explain the procedures and protections in place leading up to and beyond Election Day.
The full Chesterfield Electoral Board and Registrar spent over an hour Wednesday morning walking voters through every step of the election process: from logic and accuracy testing of tabulation machines to voter roll maintenance to the final canvass of the results.
Chesterfield Registrar Missy Vera said she welcomes curiosity from voters because of her confidence in the processes in place that make elections secure.
“Everyone’s questions this morning were great," Vera said. "People are curious about the process, and we just want to be here. We want to be available to answer people’s questions and to let them know what all is entailed in running an election.”
Officials said during their presentation there were several misconceptions they often find themselves having to address.
Board members reminded voters that electronic tabulation machines cannot connect to the internet in any way, and thus cannot be hacked. Plus, each one is tested and certified in view of party leaders and independent candidates prior to use.
"The reason for this [logic and accuracy] testing is to ensure the machine is going to record the vote correctly," said Republican Vice Chair of the Electoral Board, Rick Michael.
Officials reminded voters results often take time to come out because election officials are carefully counting and double-check vote totals. The maintenance and accuracy of voter rolls are sometimes questioned by voters, but officials and election officials scrutinize their rolls basically year-round.
“Understand that the whole voter registration process is not one day; it’s pretty much all the time," said Democrat and Secretary of the Electoral Board, Lynette Clements.
All three board members said they thought early, in-person voting was a tremendously secure way of casting a ballot. You can learn more about the election processes here.
Providing voters with accurate information about why these processes take place helps dispel concerns, Vera said.
She pointed to one voter who recently expressed skepticism about election integrity.
“He was very curious, asking a lot of questions," Vera said. "We said why don’t you come serve — be an officer of elections. He did, he served one election and said, 'You know what, you guys are doing a great job, that was a long day' and never served again, but that’s great to have people come out and see the process from the inside.”
It takes over 1,200 poll workers to operate the 86 Election Day precincts every year, so officials encouraged those who are interested in the process to sign up and help out. The effort to recruit more poll workers is an issue that rings true well beyond Chesterfield County, Vera said.
Nicole Subryan is actively engaged in local politics and brought her husband to Wednesday's information session.
“The first thing I say to people is do you realize there is an election in Virginia every single year? The number of people who do not know that is astonishingly high," she said. “The 2020 election, let’s be real about that: a lot of misinformation was put out there about the election process. I think events like this help to dispel some of that.”
Early voting begins next week for General Assembly elections that will determine whether one party controls both chambers of the legislature. The stakes could not be higher for Governor Glenn Youngkin, whose big-ticket agenda currently faces a check with Democrat's control of the Virginia Senate.
Subryan and her husband both signed up to become poll workers, and she is hopeful more voters get locked in on the voting process and what this upcoming election could mean for local communities.
"The laws that will affect their everyday life are the ones that are going to come out of the election this year," she said.
In-person early voting begins on September 22 and Election Day is November 7.
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