May elections raise questions amid coronavirus pandemic

Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 7:48 PM EDT
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More than 50 localities in Virginia have elections coming up in early May. And organizations that represent registrars and local electoral boards are asking the state to consider closing polling places, and shifting to absentee voting for everyone.

Tracy Howard is the Director of Elections for the city of Radford.

"Today is opening day of absentee voting. We already have one vote on our central precinct absentee voting machine," Howard told WDBJ7 Friday morning.

The May 5th election is looming, and Howard would like to see more of the city's residents consider voting absentee.

"We're going to make absentee ballot paper applications available on the outside of our building, the courthouse," Howard said, "and we're going to install a dropbox for those ballots to come back."

The city of Salem has ten precincts.

And the Director of Elections there, Dana Oliver, says she's concerned about election day staffing.

"If the virus spreads more, or whatever happens," Oliver said, "we're afraid we won't have enough poll workers if we do open the polls."

And registrars have other questions, including what precautions they need to take to protect everyone's health, and whether or not some organizations that host polling places will have second thoughts about opening their doors.

So far they're still waiting to hear how the state will respond. Until they receive orders from the governor or the state supreme court they say they will continue preparing as state law requires.

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