Newlin, the Rappahannock Country registrar, there appears to be
a fundamental misunderstanding about what she does and what goes
into making an election happen.
people say 'what can be so hard about working one day year' I
just want to throw things at them," said Newlin, who has
held the position for 14 years after the previous registrar passed
who is in the midst of her third appointed, four-year term, is
an independent official, unaffiliated with any political party.
Her responsibilities include registering voters, managing both
the budget for running elections, training election day workers,
and ensuring balloting runs smoothly and that all the votes are
collected and tallied. The work is year-round.
six to eight weeks prior to the election when we start programming
the voting machines," Newlin said. Until recently, Rappahannock
County still used paper ballots. Three years ago the county of
about 7,000 residents acquired voting machines, but the technology
does not mean Newlin can just sit back and relax.
have to be programmed for their memory card and then you have
to do diagnostic testing to make sure they accept every ballot
and every person's name," she explained last week.
ahead of official voting, the registrar's office must deal with
those who cannot vote in person on Election Day. Absentee ballots
are handled by having voters cast their ballots ahead of time
at the registrar's office. The ballots are then sent to the polls
on Election Day.
everyone has voted in person they're put in the machines and counted
along with everyone else," Newlin said. "It's not like
Florida where it's counted days afterwards, everything is done
on Election Day here."
the machines programmed and the absentee voters dealt with, there
still remains one of Newlin's biggest challenges: training the
office of elections -- the workers who run the various polling
stations across the county.
the office of elections has been difficult these past few years,"
Newlin said. "We thought once we got the voting machines
it would be a breeze, but they still have to be here from about
5 in the morning to 8:30, 9 o'clock."
and Republican parties in the county submit lists of people willing
to work on Election Day, though Newlin says it's never enough
and many people often pull out. She adds that many of the people
that do volunteer don't have the time to dedicate a full day to
either going out of the county to work or they're staying at home
with their little ones," she said. "And the elderly
people, they can't put in those kinds of days."
some municipalities that use special programs to recruit people
to work Election Day -- some counties allow teachers to work polling
stations in return for a day off. While Rappahannock has no such
programs, they do pay their volunteers.
people think it's free so when we give them a check they're really
surprised," Newlin said.
The kind of
people that volunteer run the gamut from new arrivals to "old
faithfuls," she said. "We have one woman who's done
it for 30 years; she's never missed an election."
Virginia's early primary comes with a whole new set of challenges.
Many residents are not aware there is an election coming. Others
have confused the Feb. 10 vote with the general election and asking
why President Bush will not be on the ballot. And while the primary
is normally scheduled in June, this year voters may have to deal
with harsh winter conditions to get to the polls.
is optimistic about the turnout. For the first time in a long
time, Virginia voters will have a real say in picking the Democratic
gotten a lot of calls, a lot of people interested," Newlin
said. "This year, Virginia matters."
By Chris Nammour, Online NewsHour