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Posted June 13, 2012 | comments 27 Comments

Front Royal resident claims polling place too far to walk

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Voting in Tuesday's GOP primary election didn't come easy for one Front Royal resident.

In fact, Pat Callahan said Wednesday she couldn't vote at all.

Callahan found herself without a way to cast a ballot in the primary for Virginia's 6th District of the House of Representatives. Callahan lives in the 200 block of South Royal Avenue, approximately 1.2 miles from her polling location at Skyline High School, less than a mile outside town limits. While a sidewalk does run along South Royal Avenue toward the edge of town, once the road turns into Stonewall Jackson Highway (U.S. 340) no paved path exists.

Callahan questioned why her voting precinct does not offer a polling place in downtown Front Royal or at least a "default" site. She suggested the county government center serve as a polling place for people in her situation.

Localities face tough federal guidelines when choosing polling places, as Warren County General Registrar Carol L. Tobin noted Wednesday after the board of elections canvassed the ballots cast in the primaries. Skyline High School came into play as a more viable location than the previous site at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, 320 E. Criser Road. Traffic congestion and access at Jeffries prompted the county to move the polling site to Skyline, which still lies within the 1-mile maximum distance from Front Royal limits, to serve as location for voters in town elections, Tobin explained.

The registrar's office also is limited in the assistance they can offer to voters.

"If someone is lacking transportation we usually tell them or suggest to them to contact the [political] parties," Tobin said, adding that her office can't promote rides offered by one party over another and remain non-partisan.

Often the local chapters of the political parties who have candidates running in elections offer a ride service to those people without transportation who wish to vote.

"If the candidates really want the votes they ought to be the ones to try to provide transportation," Tobin said.

Callahan often votes by submitting an absentee ballot at the voter registrar's office in the Warren County Government Center on Commerce Avenue, she said. But since the government center lies close to her home, Callahan said she thought she could go to the facility to vote in person. However Callahan recalled that on Monday the voter registrar's office informed she would have to vote in person at the polling place designated for the South River precinct.

"I did wait 'til the last minute so if I did I will be culpable for that," Callahan admitted.

But learning her polling place lie outside town off a highway did not sit well with her.

"It's a god-forsaken place," Callahan said. "I don't know why they ever put a high school way out in the boonies somewhere."

Callahan recalled she told workers at the registrar's office she could not make it to the polling location to vote because she did not have a vehicle. Workers did ask her if she had a way to find a ride to the polls, Callahan said, but she didn't know. When Callahan asked if she could vote absentee, workers advised she missed the Saturday deadline. Workers also told her a lack of transportation is not a valid reason to receive an absentee ballot, Callahan said.

As an avid and frequent voter Callahan said she tries to exercise her right as often as she can. The Boston native said she doesn't own a car and prefers walking or using public transportation. Callahan said she does work in Washington, D.C., and, to get there, takes a taxi cab to a van pool which then transports her and other people into the metropolitan area.

"But I like the idea of being able to vote here, Callahan said. "You've got a very dynamic electorate. I think the idea of competitive races, say from the town council to the state elections or to the federal elections -- I think the federal elections are going to be fascinating this year."

27 Comments | Leave a comment

    If she can take a cab to get to the van pool, she surely can get a cab to vote. Just laziness on her part.... along with a wish to complain.

      The writer has obviously never taken a cab from the town into the county. The cost is double from rides withIN the town limits. It is outrageous that a Town resident is not able to vote withIN the Town. The issue is accessibility to a polling place. If the powers that be want to disenfranchise voters, then let them 'fes up. Don't make a stealth attack against a citizen's fundamental right to vote. Virginia's poll tax was outlawed, and apparently replaced by a poll taxi.

    Why is this a story? This woman can get to Washington, DC to work but she can't get down the street to vote? How many voting precincts can voters actually walk to in Warren County? This isn't Boston where the population is dense and there is a variety of public transportation options. Take responsibility for yourself. Alex Bridges the real story is why has Virginia spent millions and millions of dollars on three elections already this year? Why not have ONE primary and ONE main election.
    Write that story. Save this one for a letter to the editor.

      That is precisely the point: voters "can't get down the street to vote." Polling places should not be in the boonies nearly two miles from a person's address - with or without public sidewalks. Voters should be allowed to vote at the closest polling place, which for many of us townies is the government center.

      Primaries are important as they winnow down the candidates. No one should be dependent on political parties to provide access to the polls. What's next? Political parties offering libations before, during or after the vote? Belly up to the bar boys?

      Even if the elections are consolidated - which is a good idea and will save money - the issue of accessibility to the polling place remains unresolved. That is why a default polling place at government center is fair, reasonable and just.

        The party offering the best cocktails would get my vote :-) Then consolidate the elections, and take the money saved and create a county-wide shuttle system to help voters. This woman's story is still ridiculous.... I'd be more concerned about the people out in Cedarville,Rivermont, Linden, Bentonville and Browntown where walking to a poll is not an option... their votes count too. Honestly shuttles probably were not even offered... George Allen was a guaranteed win... so why would the GOP waste the money?

    I was initially sympathetic to the woman's plight until she 1) said Skyline High School was in a "god-forsaken place" and 2) fessed up to how she gets to work every day. Skyline High School and the view from where several thousand viewed graduation last night is the most beautiful place I have ever seen and could not have been located any closer to where this woman lives because there was no land available. Also, voting is a privilege and not a right in our country. Ask the felons in Virginia who don't get the right to vote back after finishing serving their time or the citizens in Florida who can be purged from the rolls for the crime of "being Hispanic" Also, when I lived in Washington, D.C., I did not have sidewalk access from my house to my polling place, nor would I have made the lengthy hike by foot even with my younger, more athletic body.

    This is a story? What a whiny, baby country we have become! Geez!

    If only she had started complaining on Monday instead of Wednesday, someone could have given her a ride...

    Why do northern city-folk move to southern rural towns and then complain about being in the "boonies"?

    I think her use of the term "boonies" shows her elitist attitude. I guess we should confrom to her wishes, not her conform to the community to which she chose to move.

    What do these people want? A polling station on EVERY street corner?
    Is 100yds. outside of the 'town limits' in the a god-forsaken place? Where else does she think a 'county' high school should be? Isn't there plenty of places within the town limits that don't have sidewalks? What does she want?
    Oh, special treatment.

    Boonies????? Are you kidding me???
    MOVE!!!! Go away!!!! Get out!!!!! Leave!!!!Go back to the city, and take your sidewalks with you!!!!!!

    It's probably a good thing she didn't/doesn't vote..

    Any jurisdiction that requires someone to travel eight miles to vote is denying citizens their constitutional right to vote. Polling places must be accessible. Citizens of the Town of Front Royal should be able to vote withIN the Town limits and do so at a polling place closest to them. Simple logic and simple equity - which seems to escape county residents who are joined at the hip to their motor vehicles.

      So, O' Wise One says, "Simple logic and simple equity - which seems to escape county residents who are joined at the hip to their motor vehicles." Excuse me if my remark seemed to boggle your highly-superior Townie mind. You see, I'm but a simple-minded county resident, with no time to form a clear thought because I'm too busy trying to pry my vehicle off my hip. I suppose that the best part about living in America is that we're each entitled to our own opinions. You are obviously of the opinion that The Man owes you comfort and convenience, while you sit back on your throne of entitlement. And, I can exercise my right to think that you're an idiot.

    I hate to pile on this woman in the story, but like just about everyone else who has commented, I don't know how anyone could honestly feel sorry for her. She knew when primary day was so she could have #1--checked around to find someone who would have been able to give her a ride to the polling place, and living only 1.2miles away, it could not have been that difficult if she started looking far enough in advance. Or #2----again, in plenty of time, save for the few extra dollars it would have cost to take a cab. And you can't tell me it will cost that much to go 1.2 miles and back.

    It really kills me when someone moves to our beautiful rural area from (many times) urban areas and then after they are here------complain that "it is not like the city they came from" and want to change it! And on top of it she calls where the school is "the boonies"?!! She sure does not know what constitutes "rural area".

    Also, I agree with what you said, schoolboard, but I believe our Constitution gives us the right to vote so although I think I know what you were wishing to convey in your words, technically speaking I think voting is considered a right and not a privilege. Certainly, if someone abuses that right, like convicted felons, then they no longer have that "right".

      Didn't realize that the US Constitution becomes inoperative in rural America. Thanks for the education.

      Commentators appear to be saying that anyone mistakenly thinking that their right to vote is inviolable should bypass Warren County. Their policy positions, however, still do not address the issue that a voter should be able to vote at the closest polling place and that Town residents should be able to vote INtown.

        As you well know, aaspo, our Constitution says we have the right to vote but I don't think it says anything about the polling place having to be across the street from where we live----or at the location we say it should be.

        Only 1.2 miles from your polling place? That is a lot closer than the 9 miles I have to travel to vote, but that is the way it goes. It is not like any of us have to get to our polling place every week.

        I feel sorry for those people who truly are disenfranchised and those being unfairly and wrongly purged from voter lists in Florida. Sorry, but I just can not feel sorry for you. This whole story is a whole lot about nothing.

          Your assumptions about Florida and the allegations that Hispanics are being purged simply because they are Hispanic are just plain wrong. Elections must maintain integrity while still facilitating maximum voter participation. Systems to address this have evolved. For example, if there is a question at the polling place, a voter will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot which is then put in a separate sealed envelope. If election officials determine its validity, the ballot is then processed and the vote counted.

          Each presidential election year teams of lawyers are deployed around the country to monitor and prevent voting fraud. It is a very serious problem. John Fund of WSJ has reported extensively on this. It is more than dead people voting per Chicago's tradition, or "voting early and voting often." Voting fraud has become far more sophisticated and more difficult to detect.

          In Philly in 2004, the big issue was provisional ballots being commingled and counted along with regular paper ballots. Once counted, the tainted ballots can not be retrieved and the vote rescinded. It is common knowledge that the Democrats win elections by getting big margins in cities, thus offsetting gains by the opposing party in suburban, exurban and rural precincts. In Philly, several precincts reported more people voting than the number of registered voters. That is why vote counters will stand outside the polling booths and click the number of walk-ins.

          7.6% voter participation in the 6th congressional district this week should be an embarrassment to all Virginians. Making it impossible to access the polling place only exacerbates the problem and inequity. But as the comments show, this is a shortcoming no one wants to admit.

            I believe I said "------those being unfairly and wrongly purged-------" You know, numerous people on those "purg lists" like the WWII vet who has to prove that he is a citizen when he has been voting his whole life. I never said anything in reference to Hispanics or about people who are not legally allowed to vote. Truly disenfranchised voters is a whole other subject. My point was, I can not feel any sympathy for you in your complaint and it appears neither can anyone else. Anyone who is able to get themselves down to D.C. for work every day surely has no room to complain especially when they are only 1.2 miles from their polling place. And you did make that choice to live in an area which does not have all the amenities of a more urban area. They call it "trade-off" and a trade-off most of us gladly accept.

            But why do I waste my time responding to you. It seems as though you would just rather stay in the fog you are in and not even entertain the idea that perhaps your complaint is baseless.

    Has the N. VA daily stooped as low as the free newspaper in town by publishing this nonsense? Really, you write a story about this woman who can't get to her voting polls. In my personal opinion, just the face of this story represents someone who doesn't have both oars in the water! People who travel to Washington, DC to work, go where the salaries are big. So, as far as I'm concerned, if she has money to take a taxi to and from the car pool lot to catch her van into DC every day, she's got money to take a taxi to her polling district! No pity from me. Obvioulsy, voting was not her top priority.


      It has stooped to the point that all you see is whining, complaining and finger pointing. Both in stories and commentary. No doing...and people wonder whats wrong with this country.

      The article did not say that she travels to DC everyday to work, nor is there any reference in the article to big salaries. Commentators are reading into the report what they want.

      The issue remains as it was at the beginning: Town residents should be able to vote INtown and not be put in harm's way to navigate a dangerous route to exercise their constitutional right to vote; and, a default voting place in government center would be an acceptable solution.

    I find it interesting that the letters aaspo are also the acronym for American association of small property owners.... doesn't Ms. Callahan works with/for that group?

    I found the following information: American Association Of Small Property Owners is a registered 501(c)(3) organization located in Front Royal, VA and is focused in Study and research (nonscientific) and Discussion groups, forums, panels lectures, etc.. 222 South Royal Avenue, Front Royal, VA 22630-3139 ..Care of: F Patricia Callahan

    It appears that Ms. Callahn may be taking an active role in the discussion of the article.

      Congratulations. We wondered how long it would take someone to connect the dots. These posts are indeed affiliated with the American Association of Small Property Owners (AASPO), a nonprofit public policy organization which was founded in 1993.

      For your information, AASPO is the only national grassroots organization for the ten million small owners of residential and commercial investment properties, covering all aspects of public policy affecting real estate. AASPO operates through three project groups: advocacy, communications and litigation. We evaluate laws and regulations, issue policy papers on emerging issues, file briefs in state and federal courts, and communicate with Capitol Hill and thought leaders around the country. AASPO sponsors national and regional conferences to empower grassroots and organizes broad-based coalitions of property owners, taxpayers, businesses, and political and community leaders.

      We had wondered whether the dynamics of public policy formulation would differ in urban and rural areas. Your responses have indicated that they surely would. The tenor of your comments shows that perceptions are defined by a writer's experiences, prejudices and pre-conceived ideas. In other words, filters have a greater influence than previously thought. By contrast, urban responses are largely defined by community of interests and external stimuli. The big difference is that rural opinions will unlikely be swayed by articles, op-eds, advertising or other marketing tools. Perhaps that explains the low voter turn-out in the sixth congressional district this past election.

      We still have not determined how to make public policy formulation in rural areas more competitive. Guess that will take research for another day.

    So, aaspo or Patricia Callahan or whatever you would like to be called, this whole thing has been a ruse and we have been your "guinea pigs"? You---a lobbyist. You can dress up the description for your organization all you want, but all you are is a lobbyist for landlords. I read a little about your organization and what your goals are. I personally find you even more obnoxious than I did before.

    I just want to tell the complaining woman in this story, I moved out to these boonies about 7 yrs ago from just outside DC. I would not ever leave this (warren) county for anything. Some people don't know a good thing until they are bit in the ass and in her case the blinders and miserable life will prevent her from most joys. Tuff luck as it is a wonderful life.

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