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Woodbridge voter office future uncertain, again

WOODBRIDGE — A voter office in Woodbridge could once again be headed for the chopping block.

The Prince William County Electoral Board is prepared to be hit once more with rent fees from the Virginia DMV.

In March, the state asked for 14 years of back rent in the amount of $31,200 for a voter registration office inside the Woodbridge DMV Customer Service Center on Caton Hill Road. The office is also used as an absentee in-person voting center in the weeks leading up to November General Elections.

“We’ve been there rent-free for years,” said Prince William Electoral Board Secretary Keith Scarborough.

After the March notice, there were fears the only voter registration office on the eastern side of Prince William County would close. The closure was averted when DMV officials backed off, and county officials were told they had at least one more year to operate in the building.

“I think the call for rent was a ‘get out’ message,” said Electoral Board Chairman Robin Williams.

If it was, the election officials have few places has few places to go. The Board on Wednesday wrangled not only with finding what to do about the Woodbridge DMV site but also to find a new site to serve the western end of Prince William County in the growing Haymarket and Gainesville areas.

Right now, the closest voting office to those areas is the central Prince William County Office of Elections at 9250 Lee Avenue, across from the county courthouse in Manassas, a 12-mile, 25-minute hike depending upon traffic conditions.

So far, the elections office has found little if any space suitable for a center similar to the one inside the Woodbridge DMV. It wants space on a street-level, that handicapped accessible, and with storage space to lock up ballots and equipment. A space inside a retail center is ideal, one elections worker said during the meeting.

The Electoral Board is not in favor of an Aug. 1 proposal from Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland to use his second-floor office near Heritage Hunt in Gainesville as a polling place.

“I don’t like going to the Supervisors offices,” said Williams. “It’s already a political office.”

“It’s a shame that when the Gainesville Library was being planned, we didn’t say ‘give me 20 parking spots and a street-level office,'” Williams added.

The Electoral Board will ask the Board of County Supervisors how just much it’s willing to fund a new western voting office, and that will give elections officials a better idea of space, and staffing requirements.

Currently, in Woodbridge, the office is staffed with two part-time workers who assist voters during elections season and help the elections office with mailings other times during the year. Most if not all of the voter registration happens at the main DVM counter, so many residents do not need to visit the separate voter counter at the Woodbridge DMV.

“My goal is to keep a full-time elections office at the Woodbridge DMV,” said Scarborough, who said the Woodbridge voter office is one of the busiest inside a DMV location in the state.

That may mean the Electoral Board goes back hat-in-hand to the Board of County Supervisors to ask for the money to fund the state’s rent request. Or it may mean working out a new deal with the state to build an addition to the Woodbridge DMV to house the voter office.

“We need to ask what the DMV wants,” said Scarborough.

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