Voters adjust to first ‘social distancing’ election


HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — It may have been one of the most high-profile municipal election days in Virginia history, but it had nothing to do with who was running, rather how the voting occurred.

Mask-wearing poll workers, take-home pens and floor markers were a new addition to voters Tuesday in cities like Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Norfolk, Newport News and Williamsburg.

Many voters themselves were in masks too, in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The election occurred two weeks after it was originally planned to have occurred because of COVID-19. Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) used his power to move them after the Democrat-led state Senate killed his original proposal to move local elections scheduled May 5 to November 3.

“There was more publicity around this election than there usually is,” said Mary Lynn Pinkerman, Chesapeake’s voter registrar.

By 2 p.m., in-person voting in Virginia’s second largest city — Chesapeake — had already been roughly 10 percent.

“If I can shop at Walmart, I can go and vote,” said Amber Brumdez, who voted at Grassfield High School.

However, the state encouraged absentee voting.

The voter registrar for the City of Hampton expected anywhere from 13,000 to 15,000 people were going to vote Tuesday for mayor, school board and city council. As many as half of those could be absentee. 

Tara Morgan said that would be the amount of absentee ballots in a typical presidential election.

 COVID-19 has shaped not only the campaign, but Election Day itself.

On the outside of the precinct at Aberdeen Elementary School in Hampton, people were greeted with campaign signs and people handing out promotional materials. However, there was no handshaking like in elections past.

If you’re Steven Brown, you call the social distancing measures necessary. 

“The concern is definitely there, you should be concerned about this virus,” Brown said.  

If you’re Barry Lowe, you call it “a power play by the liberals.”

“I don’t think we’re all in that much danger. I think it’s just kind of overblown,” Lowe said.

It definitely changes the game for people running. It’s no time for back-slapping, pressing the flesh or kissing babies.

“We had to get creative. Everything was done through social media or word-of-mouth,” said incumbent school board chair Ann Stephens Curry, running for re-election. “That’s different, because we weren’t able to have any personal forums where the community could get to meet everybody.”

Incumbent Mayor Donnie Tuck ran for four more years. He says he misses the social gatherings, such as civic league.

“You have that one-on-one contact where you have a chance to pull people aside and talk more about your campaign,” Tuck said. ”A lot of your older citizens aren’t on Facebook, or Twitter or Instagram, so it’s a challenge.”

See the election results on WAVY’s election headquarters page.

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