Jul 27, 2023 - Politics

Electoral board closes downtown and South Richmond early voting locations

Animated illustration of a sign reading, COME IN, WE'RE OPEN flipping over to read SORRY, WE'RE CLOSED.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

There won't be any early voting locations downtown or in South Richmond this year.

What's happening: The city electoral board's new Republican majority voted against opening the satellite locations earlier this week, citing budgetary concerns, per general registrar Keith Balmer.

Why it matters: The decision will leave the general registrar's office in an out-of-the-way office park off Laburnum Avenue as the city's only voting location until election day.

Details: Balmer told Axios that he had budgeted to open the two satellite locations, one at City Hall and one at Hickory Hill Community Center, but that board members balked at the $100,000 cost of staffing the offices.

  • The final vote was 2-1, with the board's one Democrat opposing.

By the numbers: 25% of the 11,208 in-person early votes in last year's midterms were cast at the satellite locations slated to be shuttered this year, per the general registrar's office.

Context: This is the first election being administered by the electoral board's new GOP majority, which was installed under a state law that dictates the current governor's political party hold a majority on all local electoral boards.

Between the lines: The closures are likely to be viewed as especially fraught with a second casino referendum on the ballot this year.

  • In the first referendum, the neighborhood surrounding the project overwhelmingly supported it.
  • Those residents will now have to travel significantly farther to participate in early voting.

What they're saying: City Council President Mike Jones warned that African American voters would be hit hardest by the decision.

  • "This isn't about who's on the ballot and what's on the ballot," Jones said. "It's about how easily accessible voting is."
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