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January 13, 2021

Electoral board seeks more space and staff expansion

File Photo/Don Del Rosso
Fauquier voters line up in September at the county registrar’s office to cast ballots early for the November general election.
We’ve been hit with some major legislative mandates from the Virginia General Assembly. And we’re going to have to adapt how we operate in the community in order to accommodate and make things workable.
— Fauquier County General Registrar Alex Ables
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Fauquier County Electoral Board’s wish list calls for more office space, additional staff and a third early-voting satellite location.

The county supervisors will conduct an hour-long work session on those and other electoral board requests at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Warren Green Building in Warrenton.

“We’ve been hit with some major legislative mandates from the Virginia General Assembly” that have strained his office’s resources, Fauquier General Registrar Alex Ables said. “And we’re going to have to adapt how we operate in the community in order to accommodate and make things workable.”

For example — beginning with the Nov. 3 election — Virginia required all registrars to provide 45 days of in-person, “no excuse early voting” opportunities, Mr. Ables said.

Exercising that option, Fauquier voters cast 20,056 ballots early at the registrar’s office in Warrenton and satellite polling places at the Bealeton Depot and the Vint Hill Village Green Community Center.

Prior to Election Day, 28,632 county citizens already had voted early in-person or by absentee ballot, accounting for 65.27 percent of the turnout.

A record 80.7 percent of Fauquier voters — 43,865 — participated in the presidential election,

To address new election laws, his office also had to develop a labor-intensive system to return “deficient” mail-in ballots to voters for correction so that their votes could be counted, Mr. Ables said.

“It’s a fundamental change to how Virginia conducts elections,” the registrar said of the new laws. “There’s a lot of manpower involved, and also a lot of equipment that needed to be acquired to accommodate all of this.”

No-excuse early voting and by-mail balloting will remain popular among voters, Mr.
Ables said.

To meet those and related challenges, the board wants more office space, a permanent equipment storage location and funding for two additional full-time positions, Mr. Ables explained.

The registrar’s office along Waterloo Road totals about 3,100 square feet, the registrar said.

He believes the office needs 5,000 square feet of administrative space to operate efficiently and 1,000 square feet of secured storage space for voting equipment, Mr. Ables said.

Besides Mr. Ables, the office’s full-time permanent staff includes Deputy Registrar Diana Dutton. A part-time permanent position remains vacant. On a "regular basis," his office employs five part-time hourly workers.

The electoral board has requested funding for two assistant registrar’s positions. But, Mr. Ables said the part-time position could be eliminated, with its funding used to help create two new assistant registrar posts.

The electoral board also wants to “float” the idea of a Marshall early voting location “past” the supervisors “to see if they would be agreeable to it,” the registrar said. “The justification for it is that the northern half of the county doesn’t have an early voting location.”

> Document at bottom of story

County Administrator Paul McCulla spoke skeptically about some of the electoral board’s requests.

“Without direction from the board of supervisors, county administration is unsure as to why they would need that additional (office) space,” Mr. McCulla said.

He believes existing available space in county government buildings can meet the registrar’s equipment storage requirements.

The second year of Fauquier government’s biennial budget plan, which takes effect July 1, 2021, provides no funding for new positions or the reclassification of existing ones, Mr. McCulla said.

“If the board directs us to add positions, we’ll look at it and do what the board wishes,” he said. “But at this point, the direction I’ve been given from the board is this is a stand-pat budget process with very few, limited exceptions.”

The county administrator added: “I don’t foresee recommending a lot of new positions. And, the same holds true with the new space.”

Virginia law requires local governments to fund general registrars’ offices.

The Fauquier registrar’s fiscal 2021 budget totals $493,359, with just $47,545 from the state to help pay Mr. Ables’ salary and the electoral board members’ stipends.

Contact Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-0300.


Election_2020_report_011421... by Fauquier Now

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Cayenne · January 14, 2021 at 5:14 pm
I support Mr. McCulla and the Board of Supervisors recommendation to remain with the 21/22 budget and not fund the request from County registrars office. This may be a good time to benchmark with other VA counties for their best practices, cost reduction and work space etc. The results would support a business plan and a opportunity to outsource some of the functions. If you choose not to validate this function and do nothing it will be difficult to build a business case in the future.

Denosthenes · January 14, 2021 at 6:41 am
Madonna (Democrat): "Let's blow up the White House!"
Peter Fonda (Democrat): "Lock 10 year old Barron Trump in a cage with child molesters."
Johnny Depp (Democrat): "We need another John Wilkes Booth!"
Tom Arnold (Democrat): "I fantasize about standing over Donald Trump Jr.'s dead body!"
Kathy Griffith (Democrat): *Holds up a bloody, decapitated head of Donald Trump*
Snoop Dog: (Democrat): *Shoots a likeness of Trump in a music video, has Donald Trump in a body bag on his album cover*
Joe Biden (Democratic presidential hopeful): "I'd like to take Trump behind a barn to beat him."
Corey Booker (Democratic presidential hopeful): "I dream of punching Trump in the face."
Maxine Waters (Sitting Democratic congresswoman) "Harass Trump's staff and supporters in public and refuse to serve them."
Denosthenes · January 14, 2021 at 6:16 am
QUOTE: badelectronics · January 9, 2021 at 10:16 am
Blue line American flag stickers?
Punisher? Dixie Flag? You have been labeled.
Insurrectionist. Good luck job hunting!!

END QUOTE

You are good little Nazi, aren't you? What's next? Yellow stars? Concentration camps for reeducation? Liberals are truly disgusting sub-human beings.
J_Guye · January 13, 2021 at 5:27 pm
With all the vacancies in county shopping centers,why not work with landlords for temporary space prior to elections rather than permanent expansion, which potentially results in additional, year-round expenses?
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