Officials prepare for ‘historic’ election

Published 10:24 pm Thursday, September 25, 2008

Are you registered to vote?

If not, you have 11 days, including today. Oct. 6 is the last day to register to vote in Virginia for the Nov. 4 election.

So far, thousands of voters in Southampton and Isle of Wight counties and the City of Franklin have registered, and have been keeping election officials busy.

“This is the busiest election I’ve seen in 20 years,” said Patsy Fowler, the assistant registrar for Franklin.

Sandy Holloman, the city’s registrar, concurred. “It’s much busier than anything I’ve ever seen.”

Voters will select a U.S. president and vice president, U.S. senator and U.S. representative. Additionally, voters in Isle of Wight County will participate in a special election for the county Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Holloman and Fowler were busy Wednesday preparing the first batch of absentee ballots to send out to voters in the city. They anticipated sending many more batches out before the Oct. 28 deadline for doing so.

Lisa Betterton, the general registrar for Isle of Wight County, said her staff was also busy with absentee ballots and registering voters. “We’ve had a fairly big increase in the number of people coming in,” she said. “We’ve had about 300 new people register this month.”

Southampton County has been busy as well. “So far it has been busier (than previous elections),” said Leona Davis, the county’s registrar. “There is more interest, more people coming in to check and make sure they are registered. We’ve had more people checking to make sure their addresses are correct too, and updating them if necessary.”

Davis said that Southampton had not yet received its first absentee ballots from the printer, but were expecting them to arrive soon.

The number of registered voters for all three localities are hitting record highs. Franklin had 5,811 registered voters as of Thursday. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we broke 6,000,” said Holloman. Additionally, Betterton said that as of Wednesday, there were 24,759 registered voters in Isle of Wight County. Davis reported that there were 11,575 people registered to vote in Southampton County as of Sept. 15.

Holloman said the number of registered voters in Franklin has increased 6.1 percent since Jan. 1. In Isle of Wight County, Betterton said there was a 6 percent increase during the same timeframe. The number of registered voters in Southampton County has also increased since the beginning of the year, by 4.75 percent, according to Davis.

The upcoming election will break new ground in Southampton County; it will be the first year that absentee ballots are counted from a central location. The county’s Central Absentee Precinct, or “CAP,” will be a room at the county registrar’s office in Courtland.

This will be the second year that Franklin has had a CAP. Isle of Wight County has had a CAP for several years.

So, busywork aside, just how important will this year’s election be?

“Extremely,” said Betterton. “I think it’s going to be historical.”

Said Holloman: “It’s an historic election, but every election is important.”