2020-9-28

Etta Mae Bryant Jarratt

May 10, 1939-September 27, 2020

Etta Mae Bryant Jarratt, 81, of Jarratt, passed away Sunday, September 27, 2020. She was preceded in death by her husband, Tom Jarratt and a grandson, Adam Bryant Harrell.

Etta Mae is survived by her daughter, Joan Harrell and husband, Ricky; sons, Richard Benjamin Jones, Jr. and Benji Jarratt (Hope Pittman); grandson, Eric Jones and fiancée’, Brandy Nickelston; granddaughter-in-law, Samantha Jo Harrell and great-granddaughter, Ava Harrell.

Funeral services will be private.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING OUTLINES PROTECTIONS AGAINST VOTER INTIMIDATION

~ Herring issues advisory opinion outlining protections in both state and federal law against voter intimidation in response to recent events ~

RICHMOND (September 24, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has issued an advisory opinion outlining protections in both state and federal law against voter intimidation in response to “reports of activity near polling places that led some voters to fear for their safety while waiting to cast their vote, or led them to believe that they would be harmed for supporting a particular candidate.”
 
“Voting is a fundamental right and the bedrock of our democracy. No Virginian should ever feel intimidated or afraid while exercising their duty as an American and casting their vote,” said Attorney General Herring. “My hope is that the behavior we saw last week will not happen again, and I remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian is able to safely and comfortably cast their ballot without fearing for their safety or wellbeing.”
 
Attorney General Herring concludes his opinion saying, “[t]he legitimacy of our government—and its success in fulfilling the promises of our Constitution—rely on the notion of uncoerced choice. Virginia and federal law protect the fundamental right to vote freely. Accordingly, it is my opinion that the conduct you describe could violate state and/or federal law if it threatens or intimidates voters casting their ballots at polling places.”
 
The opinion outlines applicable provisions in the Code of Virginia “[that] expressly prohibit[] voter intimidation” including:
  • Section 24.2-607(A) makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor “’for any person to hinder, intimidate, or interfere with any qualified voter so as to prevent the voter from casting a secret ballot.’”
  • Section 24.2-1005 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to use “’threats, bribery, or other means in violation of the election laws’ to ‘attempt[] to influence any person in giving his vote or ballot or . . . deter him from voting.’”
  • Section 24.2-1015, makes it a Class 5 felony to “’conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, intimidate, prevent, or hinder any citizen of this Commonwealth in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the provisions of [the election laws].’”
 
The opinion also highlights provisions in the Virginia state code that “prohibit[] certain conduct at polling places that might interfere with the right to vote free from influence,” including:
  • Section 24.2-607(B) that says “’[n]o person shall conduct himself in a noisy or riotous manner at or about the polls so as to disturb the election.’”
  • “While polls are open, it is unlawful to ‘loiter or congregate,’ ‘give, tender, or exhibit any . . . campaign material,’ or ‘solicit or in any manner attempt to influence any person in casting his vote’ within 40 feet of ‘any entrance of any polling place.’”
  • “It is also unlawful to ‘use[]’ a ‘loudspeaker…within 300 feet of a polling place on an election day.’”
 
Additionally, the opinion notes that “Virginia and federal law provide that voters shall not be harassed for exercising their rights”, highlighting that “[b]oth state and local law protect citizens from violent threats, and in particular from being threatened with firearms” and that “[i]t is a criminal offense for private individuals to usurp the role of actual law enforcement, and it is accordingly unlawful to appear at the polls attempting to exercise roles that rightfully belong to law enforcement.” Attorney General Herring says that “[t]hese types of protection have an important history in our law. They have helped vindicate racial equality in voting, ensure the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws, and invoke the basic respect that is due every voter at the polls.”
 
Other key passages from the opinion:
 
In our democratic system of governance, the right to vote is “a fundamental political right.” Voting both ensures “a representative form of government” and also “preserv[es] . . . other basic civil and political rights.” “[T]he right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner” is therefore a “bedrock” principle in any “free and democratic society.” Intimidation of citizens who are seeking to vote is both illegal and antithetical to one of the basic promises that binds us together: that of democratic self-governance. [Page 1]
 
Federal criminal law similarly provides that any person who “intimidates, threatens, [or] coerces” another person “for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose” in a federal election—or “attempts” to do the same—may be fined and/or imprisoned for up to one year. [Page 2]
 
Should they so choose, officers of election—with the consent of the locality’s chief law-enforcement officer—are empowered to “designate a law-enforcement officer” to “preserve order inside and outside at the polling place.” [Page 2]
 
Voters similarly should not fear for their safety when voting, whether they are within the forty-foot zone of a polling place or in socially-distanced lines beyond that zone. [Page 2]
 
Virginia law also prohibits carrying or possessing firearms or weapons at specific locations that may be used as polling places, such as schools and courthouses. [Page 3]
 
Virginia law makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to “falsely assume[] or exercise[] the functions, powers, duties, and privileges incident to the office of sheriff, police officer, marshal, or other peace officer, or any local, city, county, state, or federal law-enforcement officer.” This criminal prohibition can apply to “a group of private militia members coming as a unit, heavily armed with assault-style weapons, dressed in fatigues and other military accessories, and acting in a coordinated fashion” where the “militia members patrol[] a line of citizens” and “project[] authority to manage the crowd.” [Page 3]

Virginia early voting nears 200,000 in first week

By Joseph Whitney Smith, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia voting is off to an active start, with tens of thousands of people hitting the polls during the 45-day early voting period. 

Over 164,000 citizens have voted in person, while more than 926,000 absentee ballots have been issued as of Sept. 25, said Andrea Gaines, director of community relations and compliance support at the Virginia Department of Elections. Over half a million people returned absentee ballots in the 2016 presidential election, according to the department

Breaking the traditional custom of voting on Election Day, the governor and other top officials hit the polls when they opened Sept. 18. The General Assembly earlier this year removed restrictions to vote absentee and allowed early, in-person voting until Oct. 31. The move allowed individuals to cast their ballots 45 days early.

“While the pandemic has made this an unprecedented election year, Virginia voters have several safe and easy ways to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press release. “Voting is an essential part of our democracy, and I encourage every Virginia voter to know their options and make a plan for safely casting their ballot.” 

About 20 people were lined up, six-feet apart, to vote Friday morning at the Henrico County registrar’s office. Carrington Blencowe was one of the voters. She said that voting early is more convenient for her family. 

“This makes it a lot easier than trying to vote the day of because it gives people more time and we’re a working country,” Blencowe said.

Voters do not have to fill out an application to vote in person early.They just head to their general registrar’s office or satellite voting location, show ID and cast a ballot.

Stephen Farnsworth, director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said previous early voting and absentee ballots were much more inconvenient. 

“It involved signing a statement saying you had one of a range of acceptable excuses, they included military service, being away at college, travel plans, working from out of county, or disabilities,” Farnsworth said. “When you think about how much easier it is to vote via mail-in, my guess is that it will remain popular after the COVID-19 crisis has passed.”

The last day to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 23. The Virginia Department of Electionsrecommends that applicants return their ballot as soon as possible due to the high number of ballots issued. In2018 and 2019,90% and 85% of requested absentee ballots were returned, respectively.

Despite pandemic, some Virginia registrars report surge of poll workers

By Will Gonzalez, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. -- Several places in Virginia say they’ve seen a surge in people applying to be Election Day-workers, despite initial concerns there would be a shortage.

The U.S. is facing a nationwide poll workers shortage, Gov. Ralph Northam said in a Tweet posted in early September urging Virginians to apply for the position. Some districts expected a shortage because they anticipated high turnout. Poll workers fulfill a variety of part-time and full-time roles, from assisting with absentee ballot distribution, answering phone calls, supervising early voting, and helping at the polls on Election Day. 

Before polls opened last week, Virginia Beach said it needed 1,200 poll workers this year instead of the 800 they usually have, according to CBS-3 (WTKR-TV). 

On the other hand, Arlington County, posted online that it has filled “beyond capacity” its need for poll workers in its 54 precincts. No shortage of poll workers is expected in Fairfax County, which will have more than 3,800 election officers to work the county’s 243 polling locations, about half of which are first-time poll workers, according to Brian Worthy, a Fairfax County spokesperson. The county’s 3,800 workers this year is about 500 more than it had in the last election, and extra staff is on hand to process the mail-in ballots.

“Unlike other jurisdictions that I’ve heard may be having difficulty recruiting election officers, Fairfax County has experienced a very strong interest from people who want to serve,” Worthy stated over email. “In fact, we’ve had about ten times the normal number of people apply to become election officers.” 

Recruiting poll workers is also not an issue in Orange County, located 20 miles from Charlottesville. Donna Harpold, the county’s director of elections and general registrar, said she doesn’t know if being in a smaller county impacts volunteer availability compared to Northern Virginia.

“They obviously have the population advantage, but that may also lead to people being more wary of serving due to exposure concerns,” Harpold wrote in an email.

 Lisa Betterton, general registrar and director of elections in Isle of Wight, which has roughly 37,000 residents, said the Hampton Roads county has plenty of poll workers.

Poll workers and voters have expressed concern over potential exposure to the COVID-19 if polls are crowded on Election Day. Many people who volunteer at polling places across the country are retirees, the most at-risk demographic for serious complications and death from the disease. Election officials in Washington D.C. decided this year that working at a poll will count toward the community service hours required to graduate high school in the district.

Breaking with the tradition of voting on Election Day, Virginia’s top officials cast their votes on Sept. 18, the first day polls were open. Northam emphasized voters will have “several safe and easy ways” to vote. Over 164,000 residents hit the polls within the first week, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Virginia has allocated federal CARES Act funding to ensure that election officers have personal protective equipment and Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will assist at polling places to ensure social distancing and sanitization measures are followed, according to Northam’s office.

Voters are required to wear masks. In order to limit physical interaction between individuals and to avoid voters sharing pens, Fairfax County will provide voters with “I voted” pens that they can use to fill out their ballots and keep instead of offering stickers.

The General Assembly passed several bills in the spring to make voting easier, such as turning Election Day into a state holiday, no excuse required to vote absentee and allowing early voting 45 days ahead of the election. Residents may vote early at their local registrar’s office from Sept. 18 to Oct. 31, or request a mail-in absentee ballot until Oct. 23, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.

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