County Electoral Board regroups

Shenandoah County’s Electoral Board should return to full strength soon, says its chairwoman.

The board unexpectedly lost two members recently, which leaves it up to three judges in the 26th Judicial Circuit to appoint replacements. The panel of judges appointed Beverly Fleming to replace Cindy Dellinger to fill out the time remaining in the term, Chairwoman W. Joyce Gary said Thursday. Dellinger’s term was to expire at the end of next February.

Vice Chairman Hank Zimmerman also resigned from the board recently and gave several months notice. His term was to end February 2017. The court received recommendations from the party but judges have not decided on an appointment.

“It really was way more than I thought it was going to be when I took it on,” Zimmerman said Thursday. “I thought there would be down times between the elections, but there’s really not.”

The board, which has its own budget, is responsible for voting machines, conducting elections and determining the needs at the polling places.

Zimmerman tested voting machines for the Electoral Board and learned about their work before joining the group. But the time he needed to commit to the board began to conflict with his business, Zimmerman said.

“There’s a lot of things that go on that people don’t really see,” Zimmerman said. “But it’s really not about glory or public recognition. … I just believe in the importance of voting and that’s why it made it a difficult decision to leave.”

With an election coming in November, Zimmerman pointed out that resigning earlier in the year creates less of a conflict.

Each locality must have a three-member electoral board consisting of a secretary, vice chairman and chairman.

“[It’s] a very small number of people for a very big job,” Gary said.

Gary’s term expired at the end of February but said she agreed to be reappointed.

State law requires that the board chairman and secretary represent the political party of the sitting governor. The vice chairman represents the opposite or other party. Parties must submit recommendations for appointments to the circuit court, Gary explained. Fleming, who has served on the board before, was nominated and recommended by the Republican Party. Zimmerman was the Democratic Party representative.

The staggered terms expire at the end of February each year and a new person should be in place by March 1. The board couldn’t hold its regular meeting this month because it lacked enough members for a quorum.

“When you have these resignations that are unexpected there are policies and procedures and even codes that require that, in as much as is feasible under the circumstances, that within a 30-day period of the effective date of a resignation of a board member, they try to have it in place or at least well-along in the process,” Gary said.

The board’s responsibilities continue to grow as election laws change, especially with the increased oversight for the process. The time it takes for only three people to handle these duties is becoming an issue, Gary said.

The board works in conjunction with the General Registrar’s office but both entities operate under separate budgets. General Registrar Lisa McDonald’s office handles registration while the board oversees elections, polling places and voting machines.

Budget cuts at the state level also have put an extra burden on the local board. The Department of Elections used to provide forms and training for election officials. Now the locality must produce the materials from information provided by the state.

“It’s just hit us from all angles,” Gary said.

Members do receive a stipend but, as Gary noted, they don’t serve on the board for the money. The chairman and vice chairman receive $2,064.50 per year, McDonald said. The secretary receives $4,129 per year, McDonald said. The secretary makes more because the position serves in an administrative capacity. The stipend amounts have not changed in years, Gary said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com