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Voters weigh in from Charlottesville, Albemarle, Augusta precincts

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A sign ushers voters into the New Hope United Methodist Church in Augusta County.

Voter turnout was strong, steady, and civil at three local precincts midday on Election Day. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

At Venable Elementary School in Charlottesville, a line of young voters was forming around 11 a.m. – many of them going through the same-day voter registration process that went into effect this fall, allowing eligible voters to register in person on Election Day.

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Jessica Otey, precinct chief at Venable, helps a voter register on Election Day.

JESSICA OTEY: We've done like 48 provisional ballots, and all except for one are same-day registration.

Election Official Jessica Otey is the chief of the Venable precinct, which has a high number of UVA students. On Tuesday morning, she was keeping track of the provisional ballots cast by the newly registered voters. Those ballots, instead of being scanned by the ballot counting machines on-site, have to be verified by the local registrar's office and electoral board.

OTEY: You will have ballot 50. [shuffles papers] You're going to vote it, and you're going to fold it, put it in there, seal the envelope, come back.

VOTER: Okay, cool.

Outside, State Delegate Sally Hudson was excited to see how many students were taking advantage of the new rule.

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State Delegate Sally Hudson came to check on student turnout.

SALLY HUDSON: I teach at UVA, and every year I get to talk to students who miss out on voting because they don't file the paperwork in time. And so, to roll into Venable precinct here just off the corner, and see dozens of students lined up to cast their same-day ballots is amazing.

Omega Ilijevich, a fourth-year UVA student, was able to register and vote on Tuesday.

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Omega Ilijevich is a fourth-year student at UVA.

OMEGA ILIJEVICH: I don't really like the rhetoric that Bob Good has been spreading since he's been elected, and Throneberg just seems like a better choice.

Local resident Darryl Barnes voted for Bob Good, the incumbent Republican.

DARRYL BARNES: Seemed nice to me, from reading all the information I got from out here. … Not too much into politics. I'm living good now, so keep it going! [laughs]

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Darryl Barnes is a Charlottesville resident.

Nearby, in Albemarle County, there was a steady stream of voters moving quickly through the Mt. Ed Baptist Church near Batesville. Clark Gathright, chief of the Yellow Mountain precinct, said that the recent redistricting process moved some voters from another precinct into theirs – something that’s affecting many voters statewide.

CLARK GATHRIGHT: We're over halfway through our ballots, so we need to get more ballots because we're not halfway through the day yet. So that's a good turnout. I was thinking with all the early voting, we would have a lower turnout, but I think with the increased district size, it's more than made up for the difference there. So we've been busy.

One voter named Ella, who preferred not to share a last name, voted for Democratic challenger Josh Throneberg – and thinks that central Virginia gets unfairly lumped in with Charlottesville when it comes to public perception.

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Clark Gathright is a precinct chief in Albemarle County.

ELLA: I come to a Baptist church – never, for any reason in my life except to vote, but all these people are extremely nice, and I don't know those people, don't really support what they support, but they're still nice to me and they still talk.

Henry "Hank" Browne preferred not to name the candidate he voted for.

HENRY "HANK" BROWNE: No, let's just say I shared the people's choice.

He thanked the poll workers for their efforts –

BROWNE: … to continue the democracy that we started many years ago. Keep it up!

Ed and Becky Guryansky voted for Throneberg.

ED GURYANSKY: Well, we certainly think he represents the values that we believe in.

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Ed and Becky Guryansky are Albemarle County residents.

BECKY GURYANSKY: … The right to choose –

ED GURYANSKY: Climate change, freedom in education.

BECKY GURYANSKY: The January 6th – supporting democracy.

ED GURYANSKY: Pushing back against all the lies and stuff, yeah.

To the west and over the Blue Ridge Mountains, outside the New Hope United Methodist Church in Augusta County, pickup trucks lined the small parking lot, and neighbors stopped to chat before and after voting.

VOTER: Y'all have a good evening!

FRANK NOLEN: Alright, good to see you, Glen!

VOTER: Good to see you.

When I stopped in around 1:30 p.m., an election official said they'd had a little over 400 ballots cast so far, not including early and mail-in ballots. There are just under 1500 voters in the precinct.

Former State Senator Frank Nolen and local resident Tommy Key sat in camp chairs outside.

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Tommy Key and Frank Nolen were out greeting voters in the New Hope precinct of Augusta County.

NOLEN: Well, I'm out here greeting people and telling them I appreciate them exercising their right to vote, and I hope that we will be able to continue our democracy and always be able to vote without interference, intimidation, or anything else.

TOMMY KEY: I don't care if they're Democrat or Republican. Mr. Nolen and I know so many of these people it's just like Homecoming!

Besides the race between incumbent Ben Cline and challenger Jennifer Lewis for the U.S. House of Representatives, voters in Augusta County were also choosing whether to build a new courthouse in Verona or Staunton. Nolen said he's opposed moving the courthouse out of Staunton since the 1970s, whereas Key said –

KEY: Well, I'm an old corrections officer. From a security standpoint, it would be better at Verona. But that's my major issue.

Mike Wagner came to the church only to be told his polling place had been moved by redistricting. He planned to vote for Ben Cline.

MIKE WAGNER: Normally I vote Democrat. Yeah, I don't like the direction we're heading right now.

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Francis Stout is an Augusta County resident.

HAGI: Okay, do you care to say any more about that?

WAGNER: No, that's about it!

Francis Stout came wearing a U.S. Army hat, and while he did serve, he only considers those who saw combat to be veterans. He voted for Jennifer Lewis, and said the battle over the Mountain Valley Pipeline – which is still under construction in southwestern Virginia – was a deciding factor for him.

FRANCIS STOUT: I am not in favor of the pipeline, and she was the one that fought that, all the way through.

Everyone I spoke with throughout the day said that voters and officials alike had been respectful and courteous.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.