As church was dismissed on Oct. 3, some Spotsylvania County pastors encouraged their congregation to head to the polls.
A similar “Souls to the Polls” event was held this past Sunday in Caroline County.
Spotsylvania and Caroline were the only two localities in the Fredericksburg area to take advantage of a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam earlier this year to permit Sunday voting and provide state funds to conduct it.
There were 145 voters on Oct. 3 in Spotsylvania and 95 in Caroline on Sunday. Spotsylvania General Registrar Kellie Acors said she spoke to one man, a truck driver, who said Sunday was his only opportunity to vote in person.
Acors and Caroline Registrar Kathy McVay said they’re in favor of whatever the public wants to do.
“I thought [Sunday] was a wonderful opportunity for people to come in and vote,” McVay said.
There are many other opportunities to vote early, as well.
Early voting in Virginia began Sept. 17, which was 45 days before the Nov. 2 general election. Early voting will also take place on two Saturdays—Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
In Spotsylvania, 7,555 voters had already cast ballots as of this week. That’s 7.5 percent of the total number of registered voters, well off the pace of last year’s early voting numbers in the presidential election. More than 54,000 votes were cast early in the county in 2020, comprising nearly half the registered voters.
By this past Monday, there had been 4,231 ballots cast in Stafford County (3.8 percent), 1,459 in Caroline (7 percent), 1,051 in King George (6 percent) and 976 in Fredericksburg (5 percent).
Tuesday was the deadline to register to vote.
In Caroline, some voters gathered on Sunday at Bowling Green’s Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, where they had a fish fry lunch before they prayed and marched to the general registrar’s office.
The Rev. Duane Fields Sr., pastor of Oxford Mount Zion Baptist Church in Ruther Glen, said it was a momentous occasion because it’s the first time Sunday voting had taken place in the county.
“It’s really an emotional day for me because it represents a time when some folks couldn’t vote that are now out to vote,” added Floyd Thomas, who represents the Mattaponi District on the county’s Board of Supervisors. “We’ve got folks in line right now who experienced problems with voting years ago. … We think it’s a great day.”
Rachel Levy, a Caroline High School government teacher and Democratic candidate for the 55th District House of Delegates seat, was on hand at the event. Levy, who is challenging Republican incumbent Buddy Fowler for the seat representing parts of Caroline, Spotsylvania and Hanover County, said early voting is “crucial” because it allows more people to engage in the process.
“When we have same-day Tuesday elections and the polls are just open for 12, 13 hours, there are a lot of people who cannot vote that day,” Levy said. “The right to vote is basic. We should be able to take it for granted, but we can’t. We have to really work to protect it.”
Spotsylvania NAACP President Moe Petway expressed concern that during that county’s “Souls to the Polls” event, there were candidates from the Republican party approaching voters throughout the day.
Petway said the NAACP will request that Spotsylvania relocate its early voting satellite office located at 4924 Southpoint Parkway. He said it’s too close to the county’s Republican headquarters, which is at 4920 Southpoint Parkway.
Acors noted that the county’s office of elections leased the building for the sole purpose of early voting in late August 2020 and the Republicans arrived two doors down afterward.
Acors said the location is convenient because it’s in the same vicinity of the main office of elections at 4708 Southpoint Parkway.
Still, Acors said the satellite office will probably be moved. She said there have been incidents in the parking lot involving supporters of opposing parties.
Petway said he has requested that NAACP members check on the atmosphere at the satellite office periodically to ensure no harassment is taking place. He said Republican signs are so prominent in the shopping center that some have mistaken the party office for the voting site.
“People have camped out down there approaching people about voting,” Petway said. “I understand the desire to solicit votes. But they’re constantly there all day long approaching everyone, and that can become restrictive.”
Taft Coghill Jr: 540/374-5526