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Tuesday's election revives old practice: Paper ballots
Paper ballots will be used in the 1st District voting

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Date published: 12/8/2007


Voters in the congressional 1st District who come out for Tuesday's special election will find themselves voting in a new way.

Or, rather, an old way--paper ballots.

Old-fashioned paper ballots have long been replaced by machines for most elections.

But because many localities' machines are still on lockdown after the Nov. 6 general election--law requires them to remain locked for a certain period after an election--Gov. Tim Kaine decreed the use of paper ballots in this special election.

The election is to choose a new member of Congress to fill the seat of Jo Ann Davis, who died in October of breast cancer. There are three candidates on the ballot: Democrat Phil Forgit, Republican Del. Rob Wittman, and independent Lucky Narain.

The way localities are implementing the paper ballot varies.

That's because all localities have to have at least one voting machine on hand for disabled voters, under the federal Help America Vote Act.

In Westmoreland County, they're hoping to have most voters use the machines instead of the paper ballots.

In King and Queen County, the registrar hasn't yet decided whether to steer voters to paper ballots or the machine.

"We have an older, more rural population, and people don't love computers and machines," said registrar Jane Peters.

Poll workers in three of her precincts, she said, are "tickled pink" at the idea of going back to a paper ballot.

But they may change their minds when they see the reality: the counting of votes.

"They may not like those machines but you close the polls, it prints out a report and you are done," she said.

Paper ballots will have to be counted by hand, and they'll require more work from poll workers in other ways.

Stafford County registrar Sharon Persinger said voters will take their paper ballot to a booth, mark it, and fold it so a seal on the outside is visible. Then they'll take it to a poll worker, who will make sure there's only one sheet of paper in there, and drop it in the ballot box while the voter watches.

"It's going to take longer to count them. That's the downside to the paper ballot," Persinger said.

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Candidates for the 1st District congressional seat have been getting help in the last week of the campaign. Republican Rob Wittman announced an endorsement by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, while Democrat Phil Forgit was endorsed by Gen. Wesley Clark, a former presidential candidates. The Republican National Congressional Committee has been pouring thousands of dollars into Wittman's campaign, paying for surveys, mailers and other ads. He's also received money from Sen. John Warner and state Sen. John Chichester. Democrat Phil Forgit's campaign finance reports don't reflect a similar commitment from the Democratic National Congressional Committee, but he did receive cash donations from political action committees for former Gov. Mark Warner and Gov. Tim Kaine. Several Democratic Virginia congressmen have donated to Forgit. Rick Boucher of the 9th District, gave $2,500; Jim Moran of the 8th District gave $5,000 and Bobby Scott of the 3rd District gave $2,300.

FREDERICKSBURG The ballots for the city ask voters to connect the arrow for the candidate they wish to vote for. The city also has a space for write-in candidates.
SPOTSYLVANIA Spotsylvania county has voters check the corresponding box to the right of the names to vote for candidates.
STAFFORD Stafford County asks voters to check the box to the left of the candidates' names to vote, but does not include a line for a write-in vote.