RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is imploring the Richmond Electoral Board to find a fix for the delayed opening of early voting locations calling it an “unacceptable situation.”
“I am deeply concerned over the actions of the General Registrar to delay until October 17 the opening of satellite polling locations across the city for early voting,” Mayor Stoney said in a statement. “There are simply no valid excuses for waiting one month into the early voting period of a statewide election season before making this access available to our citizens.”
8News spoke with Richmond Electoral Board James Nachman earlier this week who said the board was led to believe that all of the satellite voting locations including City Hall, Hickory Hill Community Center and the registrar’s office on Laburnum Avenue would be open to voters starting Friday, Sept. 17. But that was not the case.
Southside residents were left confused and concerned after they showed up at the Hickory Hill Community Center on Belt Boulevard to vote early only to find out that the location was closed.
Keith G. Balmer, General Registrar for the City of Richmond, said he ran an advertisement in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper on Sunday, Sept. 12, to notify the public that city hall and Hickory Hill wouldn’t open until Oct. 17 — giving residents only two weeks to cast their vote during the early voting period. Besides the ad, residents were not directly notified of the Oct. 17 date.
The legal notice was published in the newspaper 51 days before the general election.
Nachman learned Monday of a state statute, Virginia Code Section 24.2-701.2E, that says:
“Not later than 55 days prior to any election, the general registrar shall post notice of all voter satellite office locations in the locality and the dates and hours of operation of each location in the office of the general registrar and on the official website for the county or city. Such notice shall remain in the office of the general registrar and on the official website for the county or city for the duration of the period during which absentee voting in person is available. If the county or city does not have an official website, such notice shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or city at least once prior to the election but not later than 55 days prior to such election.”
Nachman said the city attorney is advising the electoral board to not add additional dates or times to the public notice because it would be illegal, violating the statute, since Balmer has already released the information.
Because of this, he said Hickory Hill and city hall will still, most likely, not be able to open for voters until Oct. 17.
A final decision will be made by the board in a meeting on Thursday, Sept. 23.