Registrar requests full-time aide
Shenandoah County’s voter registration office faces a busy fiscal year.
General Registrar Lisa McDonald said Thursday she needs more employees to handle the increasing workload. The county has yet to restore funding for a position it cut five years ago. Since then, voting regulations have changed and the number of registered voters continues to rise.
“I do think it would be best for the office if we had our staffing back to the level that it was originally, especially since we’re going into a presidential election,” McDonald said. “I believe the office and the Electoral Board, together, we agreed that due to the growth and increasing requirements that the staffing should at least be what it was when I was approved in 2008.”
The registrar has asked for a full-time assistant, a permanent part-time assistant and funding for temporary workers to help the Electoral Board around election time.
County Administrator Mary Beth Price’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget calls for an increase in funding to the registrar’s office. The Board of Supervisors will be deliberating over the proposed budget during the next couple of months.
The registrar’s budget has fluctuated over the years since fiscal 2012. The county’s adopted budget for fiscal 2015 allocates $125,834 to the office. McDonald requested $168,317 – an increase of $42,483, or about 34 percent – for fiscal 2016. Price has proposed the county increase McDonald’s budget by $24,839 to $150,673. McDonald’s budget for full-time salaries would increase $30,241, though part-time funding would decrease.
The Electoral Board determines the number of assistant registrars for the office. The registrar hires temporary staff as needed. The Electoral Board determined that the office needs one full-time assistant and one permanent, part-time assistant to work three days per week. McDonald said this is the minimum number of assistants needed for a locality the size of Shenandoah County in order to properly train people to prepare for elections, perform voter registration and to conduct absentee voting.
The county approved one full-time assistant registrar in 2008. The assistant resigned in 2010 but the county did not provide funding to fill the position because of the economic conditions, McDonald said. Since then, the registrar has used temporary assistants.
Despite the economy, the number of registered voters and turnout for elections continues to increase, McDonald said. As a result, the staff’s workload increases, she said. In 2008, the county had 25,846 registered voters. As of Nov. 14, the county had 27,004 voters.
The registrar’s office and the Electoral Board can expect to handle four elections in fiscal 2016: the general election Nov. 3; a presidential primary March 1; town elections May 3; and a primary June 14. Most of the increases in McDonald’s budget projections are in anticipation of the number of elections in fiscal 2016 compared to this cycle.
McDonald pointed out that the state does support her office in several ways. The state reimburses localities for most of the registrar’s salary and the stipends paid to the Electoral Board members. The state also provides much of the materials the office uses for registration and during elections. The county also purchased poll books at a reduced cost thanks to a state-negotiated contract. The General Assembly did not support an effort to use state money to help localities buy new voting machines.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org