POWHATAN – About 59 percent of Powhatan County’s registered voters came out to the polls last week to make their voices heard in state and local elections.
Of the 21,778 registered voters in Powhatan County, 12,753 voters, or 58.56 percent, came out to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5 in the 2019 General Election, said Karen Alexander, director of elections. The percentage of voter turnout was up from the same election four years ago, which saw a 51.4 percent voter turnout.
It was a busy election, especially considering how many candidates were on the ballot and how many races were uncontested, Alexander said. She added she was initially expecting more voters simply because the number of absentee ballots had roughly doubled from 2015.
“Going into Tuesday, I thought we would have closer to a 65 percent turnout, so it was a little less than I expected with in-person voting,” she said.
For most of the day, voting went smoothly at almost all of the precincts. However, the day was overshadowed by tragedy at the precinct at Graceland Baptist Church when a voter, Kenneth Andrews, 86, came in at around 12:30 p.m. and suffered a medical emergency while trying to vote, she said. Her election chief was CPR certified and administered CPR until she could be relieved by a man who was campaigning outside and was also an EMT. Unfortunately, Andrews later died at the hospital.
“Voting was halted for about 30 minutes, but everyone who was there when the incident occurred stayed and waited and was able to vote. They were very calm, cooperative and understanding and ended up being very prayerful that their fellow resident would be OK. Unfortunately, he wasn’t and didn’t make it after going to the hospital. It was a very sad day,” she said.
She added that her poll workers were extremely saddened that the situation happened and for the family’s loss, but she was very proud of the way they pulled together and maintained the security and integrity of the election despite an unexpected emergency.
She also heard a few complaints about “overly aggressive campaigners that were intimidating voters and picking fights with other campaigners. It is typical heated local election problems.”
One thing that set this election apart was the “exorbitant” amount of write-in votes, Alexander said. The District 1 seat for the Powhatan County School Board was the only race without a certified candidate, although the race for Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District directors had two open spots and only one certified candidate.
More than 2,500 write-in votes had to be counted by hand and verified, making the electoral board’s canvas, which typically lasts a few hours, take about two days, she added.
Republican incumbent Glen H. Sturtevant Jr. was unseated in the race for the 10th District seat in the State Senate by democrat Ghazala F. Hashmi. Although Sturtevant won in Powhatan by a high margin and narrowly had the majority in Chesterfield, Hashmi had a huge lead in Richmond City that ultimately carried the day. She won with 54 percent of the vote over Sturtevant’s 45.89 percent.
R. Lee Ware Jr., republican incumbent for House of Delegates District 65, won his race by a much wider margin of 65.05 percent to democrat Michael P. "Mike" Asip’s 34.88 percent. Ware did the best in Powhatan County, where he received 77.8 percent of the votes, but also carried the majority of votes in the other four localities in the district, albeit sometimes by a closer margin.
Only one of the constitutional offices was contested. Brad Nunnally was re-elected as sheriff, receiving 10,311 votes, against challenger Vince Whittaker, who received 2,025.
The other unopposed office results were: commonwealth’s attorney, Richard “Dickie” Cox received 10,934 votes; treasurer, Faye Barton received 11,272 votes, and commissioner of the revenue, Jamie Timberlake received 11,211 votes.
In the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District directors race, John Kochensparger ran unopposed for one of two open seats and received 10,806 votes. The other position, which was filled by write-in votes, went to Dylan Ratliff, with 81 votes.
Three of the board of supervisors races were contested. In District 1, David Williams was re-elected to his seat with 1,880 votes while Sandra Brindley received 1,204 votes. In District 4, Bill Cox won the seat with 1,404 votes over Eddie Whitt, who received 1,077 votes. In District 5, Karin Carmack was elected with 1,510 votes over Germando Harris, who received 531 votes.
In District 2, Larry Nordvig ran unopposed and received 2,081 votes. In District 3, Mike Byerly ran unopposed and received 1,943 votes.
In the school board races, there were no certified candidates in District 1, but two people ran strong write-in campaigns. Rick Cole was re-elected to the position with 992 votes, beating Vicki Hurt with 703 votes.
District 2 saw an upset, with challenger Susan Evans Smith receiving 1,271 votes and beating out incumbent James L. Kunka, who received 868 votes. In District 3, incumbent Valarie C. Ayers was re-elected with 1,291 votes, while challenger David Mack received 763 votes.
In District 4, Joe Walters ran unopposed and received 2,272 votes. In District 5, Kim Hymel ran unopposed and received 1,778 votes.
At the polls
Susan Cooper, co-chief election officer at the Subletts precinct, said they had seen a steady stream of people all day and residents were overall in a good mood, even if they had to wait. The biggest challenge at her precinct was the write-in votes for District 1 school board since they couldn’t give people much input.
Lance Willard of Powhatan voted at the Subletts precinct. He said the 2019 General Election didn’t feel any different to any other elections, and the process itself was smooth. He was pleasantly surprised to see a good amount of people at the polls when he voted in the afternoon.
“This is not a presidential election. You don’t normally think there will be this kind of turnout for a nonpresidential election, so it’s good to see this kind of turnout,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Paul Vrooman of Powhatan cast his ballot at Company 1. He said the House of Delegates and board of supervisors races were the most important to him. The supervisor race seemed especially important with issues such as zoning changes, a lawsuit against the county regarding the R-C zoning issue, a proposed landfill in Cumberland County, and traffic on Anderson Highway all so prevalent.
Vrooman said he always enjoys this time of year because of the “fall flowers” posted on so many street corners touting one candidate or another. It’s an exciting time for politics and an exciting time to vote, he added.
“It’s so easy to vote; I don’t know why more people don’t vote,” he said.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.