RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Some Richmond council members and residents are concerned after learning that one of the Southside early voting locations won’t be open for a month.

The Hickory Hill Community Center on Belt Boulevard is one of two options for early voting for those on the Southside, but it will not be open until Oct. 17. Early voting in Virginia started on Sept. 17 leaving people who need or want to vote early at Hickory Hill two weeks to do so because early voting ends on Oct. 30.

Councilwoman Reva Trammell said she thought it was a joke when she brought a carload of seniors to vote at Hickory Hill Community Center on Friday and she found out it was closed.

That group was a part of about 200 people councilman Mike Jones said was at Hickory Hill to try and vote on the first day of early voting.

He went on to say that this is voter suppression and is calling on Keith G. Balmer, General Registrar for the City of Richmond, to open the satellite office at Hickory Hill by next weekend.

Southside resident Jackie Robinson said she was planning on voting Monday but is disappointed she won’t be able to do that now.

She said it’s disheartening for her neighbor who’s in her eighties and can’t travel that far to vote knowing she won’t be able to come to Hickory Hill and cast her ballot.

“That is very disappointing, very disappointing. Very inconvenient for a lot of people in this community. We have older people in this community and this is convenient for them to come up here to vote,” she said. “We can’t let this discourage us. We have to come out and vote regardless of what they do. We must vote.”

8News reached out to Balmer, who said he is excited to hear Southside residents are motivated to vote early.

“I am a huge proponent of early voting, and as the registrar, it is imperative that I do all I can to make voting accessible to voters all over the city,” Balmer said.

He added that historical turnout in gubernatorial election years served as a methodology for waiting to open locations like Hickory Hill Community Center until the final two weeks of the early voting period.

“If you look at other big localities throughout the state, you will see they open their satellite offices the last two weeks of early voting as well,” Balmer said.

But Balmer said he’s listening to the voters and the council members who are concerned. Balmer plans to meet with the Electoral Board on Sept. 23 to determine how soon they can open the Hickory Hill location and the site at City Hall.

“Me and my Electoral Board are sensitive to the needs of the voters,” he said. “And if the voters are expressing their desire to open Hickory Hill earlier, then that is something that needs to be strongly considered.”

Those who wish to vote early at the Registrar’s Office will be able to utilize a free shuttle courtesy of James River Transportation Service to get a ride. The shuttle will pick up voters hourly from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from the north side of City Hall and on West Broad Street near the front of the Science Museum of Virginia.

Here’s a list of other deadlines Virginia voters should be aware of:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 12: Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration
  • Friday, Oct. 22: Deadline to apply for a ballot to be mailed to you. Must be received by local registration office by 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 30: Last day of in-person early voting at your local voter registration office