By Roger Piantadosi and Patty Hardee
Rappahannock News staff
Rappahannock County voters will be casting their ballots Nov. 7 — for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, 18th District House of Delegates representative and two seats apiece on the county supervisors and school board — on new voting machines.
The machines, in keeping with the Virginia Board of Elections’ vote early last month to decertify the state’s touchscreen voting machines, are not connected to the Internet, accept paper ballots only and, unlike the county’s previous machines, are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
Rappahannock County Director of Elections Kim McKiernan, seeing the handwriting on the wall, earlier this year asked the board of supervisors to budget funds for new machines. Eight were delivered last month, and one is already operational at McKiernan’s office for in-person absentee voting.
Though the voting machines may be unfamiliar on Nov. 7, at least one of Rappahannock’s two supervisor contests is likely to return a familiar face to the county’s governing body — that of Chris Parrish, who is running unopposed in the Stonewall-Hawthorne district. (In the school board “races,” both candidates are also unopposed: Larry Grove, first elected to the board in 2013 — when all four seats on the school and supervisor boards were uncontested — and Rachel Bynum, a Sperryville farmer and parent of two RCES students, who would fill the Piedmont district seat of vice chair Aline Johnson, who decided this summer that her 18th year on the board would be her final year.)
In the Piedmont district supervisor race, Sperryville resident Christine Smith is vying for the seat held by Mike Biniek, who, like Parrish, is seeking a third four-year term on the board.
In the 18th District, which encompasses all of Rappahannock and parts of Fauquier and Culpeper counties, there are three candidates for the House of Delegates seat: incumbent Republican Michael Webert, a Fauquier County farmer seeking a third term in Richmond, is challenged by Democratic candidate Tristan Shields of Rixeyville, a media entrepreneur whose acting and singing career led him to be a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice” a few years back, and Green Party hopeful Wilton King, a veteran and retired federal air marshall who lives in Bealeton.
Candidates for Virginia governor are Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, former Republican National Committee chair Edward W. “Ed” Gillespie and Libertarian Party nominee Cliff Hyra, a patent attorney and Fairfax County native.
For lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin E. Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor in Virginia’s Eastern District, faces Republican State Sen. Jill H. Vogel.
Incumbent Atty. Gen. Mark R. Herring, who became the first Democrat to hold that post since 1989 when he won election in 2013, is seeking to keep it, and is opposed by Republican John D. Adams, a former federal prosecutor and Chesterfield County native.
Election dates to remember
The deadline to register for the Nov. 7 election is Oct. 16. If you wish to request a ballot by mail, you have until Oct. 31.
Elections director McKiernan also wants you to know that the county registrar of voters office, normally open 8 to 4 weekdays next to the courthouse on Gay Street in Washington, will also be open 8 to 4 on the two Saturdays preceding Election Day, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4. Voter registration and ballot requests — and in-person absentee voting, on one of the new voting machines already set up at the office — can be achieved here. Call 540-675-5380 for more information.
In Rappahannock County’s three local uncontested “contests,” there are, as of this week, no known write-in campaigns underway (although it should be mentioned that an unknown — secret, actually — write-in campaign did win a seat on the Washington Town Council about two decades ago).
McKiernan said write-in votes in recent years have mostly won a few raised eyebrows and smiles among election officials and vote counters. For example, in the 2015 uncontested election of Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff, who won the seat with 2,277 votes, among the 105 “valid write-ins” counted and double-checked by McKiernan and crew were 73 votes for Washington attorney David Konick; 10 for Goff’s predecessor, Peter Luke; and three votes for local attorney Melissa Cupp (who surely got over the disappointment two year later when she was appointed a judge in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court).
Among the 24 “invalid write-ins” — a sure sign of a voter’s disaffection — were ballots cast for “Blank” (3), “N/A” (2), “Missing” (2)” and, tied at one vote apiece: “Perry Mason,” “Mickey Mouse,” “Anybody Else,” “No Thanks” and “Someone Better.”