COVID-19 Outbreak in Richmond Registrar’s Office Delays Election Results

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Candidates in Richmond’s close elections will have to wait a little longer for certainty after three staffers in the Registrar’s office were diagnosed with COVID-19. Registrar Kirk Showalter said most ballots would be counted by Tuesday, but 975 provisional ballots remain to be evaluated and counted. At a Monday press conference, Showalter said she hoped results for those ballots would be available on Friday.

“90 percent of my staff are now under quarantine until November 17. We do have a few staff members not impacted and they will be opening the office and working on a skeleton staff,” Showalter said at the press conference.

Although the results of the mayoral election seem clear, as of press time on Tuesday several city council races were close, according to State Department of Elections data.

A staffer from Mayor Levar Stoney’s campaign also tested positive, according to a statement obtained by NBC29. “Based on guidance from the Richmond City Health District and pursuant to City of Richmond employee protocol, my office and I will be isolating for the time being. My staff and I are well prepared to serve the residents of Richmond from home,” Stoney said.

The announcement triggered a wave of testing among campaigns and city employees who had contact with the registrar’s office. On Twitter, mayoral candidate Alexsis Rodgers said she was quarantining from home while waiting for test results. Second District City Council candidate Katherine Jordan tweeted that she tested negative. Her opponent Tavarris Spinks tweeted that he had confirmed no contact with the office during the COVID-19 risk window. Spinks was leading Jordan by just 26 votes on Tuesday afternoon according to the State Department of Elections.

ABC8 News reported that three police officers were quarantining after a potential exposure at the registrar’s office. On Monday night, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras published an updated warning of a risk of exposure due to the three infected officials being present at polling locations in Richmond schools on Election Day. Richmond’s schools have been operating in a mainly virtual environment since the beginning of the school year.

In a Tuesday email, Showalter told The Star that she expected a late-Tuesday night update that would complete all the ballots cast except just 975 provisional ballots.

Showalter said in the email, “After today, the only outstanding things to be counted are the provisional ballots.  Provisional ballots are cast in the precincts on Election Day because a person’s qualification to vote cannot be determined right then and there.  A good portion of the provisional ballots were cast by persons that had been mailed an absentee ballot.”

To determine if the provisional ballots are valid, the absentee district poll books will have to be cross-referenced with the provisional ballots to make sure no one votes twice.

“We want to give every provisional ballot its due consideration,” Showalter said at the Monday press conference. “I’m hoping we will have something on those by the end of the week.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected].









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