Senator advocates easier absentee ballot process

A state legislator wants to make it easier for Virginians who can’t go to the polls on Election Day to obtain an absentee ballot.

Sen. John C. Miller, D-Newport News, has proposed that voters be able to request and receive an absentee ballot by email. They still would have to return the completed ballot by regular mail or by hand.

Currently, only voters who are in the military or are overseas can use email to request and receive an absentee ballot from Virginia election officials.

During the General Assembly’s 2012 regular session, Miller sponsored a bill to allow any registered voter to use email to apply for an absentee ballot.

Under Senate Bill 188, if election officials approve the application, they could email the voter an absentee ballot. The voter then would print out the ballot, mark his or her choices, and submit it by regular mail.

SB 188 passed the Senate but failed in a House subcommittee. Miller says he'll push for it again next year.

“In Virginia, you cannot be emailed the ballot,” Miller noted. Instead, election officials must send absentee ballots by snail-mail. That’s expensive, wastes paper and requires a lot of employees, the senator said.

“It costs $1 for each absentee ballot sent out,” Miller said. “We could save half a million by using electronic applications.” (In the 2008 presidential election, about 507,000 Virginians voted absentee.)

Certain state officials aren’t the only people clamoring for the General Assembly to make it easier to vote absentee.

In February, members of the Student Government Association at Virginia Commonwealth University presented their legislative priorities to state lawmakers. Student leaders also were in favor of SB 188.

“This bill will provide Virginians with easier access to absentee ballots and therefore easier access to voting in all elections,” said Tiffini Smith, an SGA officer. “It would allow military families and college students to receive absentee ballots electronically, which is vital to getting a greater and better represented response in elections.”

Many states go much further than Virginia is contemplating in accommodating absentee voting. In Colorado, Mississippi and a dozen other states, voters can actually cast absentee ballots by email, according to the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website.

In Mississippi, for example, voters can email their absentee ballot “as a signed, scanned attachment” to election officials.
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Free weekly 5k coming to Henrico

The Richmond metro area is no stranger to 5k races and events. To participate in most 5k events, runners must register and pay a fee. But the Parkrun organization will be providing Henrico County with a free 5k every Saturday at Deep Run Park starting June 3.

Parkrun began in England in 2004 and eventually found its way to the U.S.

The Deep Run Parkrun program will be the 10th one in the U.S., said Darrell Stanaford, the country manager for Parkrun USA. > Read more.

State Police urge motorists to #MoveOver during Memorial Day weekend

Memorial Day signifies the official start of summer, and Virginia State Police officials are urging motorists to "do what’s right when they see lights" and move over.

The “Move Over” law is a lifesaving law intended to protect public safety professionals and highway workers who help to maintain the safety of the Commonwealth’s roads. State Police are using the #MoveOver hashtag on social media to promote the law. > Read more.

Henrico to hold June 8 open house on Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill study

The Henrico County Planning Department will hold an open house Thursday, June 8 for residents and other members of the public to provide input for a study of the Route 5 Corridor/Marion Hill areas.

The open house will be held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Varina Area Library, 1875 New Market Road. The meeting’s informal structure will allow the public to attend at their convenience and to ask questions and discuss the study one on one with Planning staff. > Read more.

Henrico real estate staying strong despite low inventory

The Henrico real estate market has been relatively strong for the past month, despite a lower amount of inventory, according to data from Long and Foster Real Estate.

In the past month, 408 homes have been sold in Henrico, which is 2 percent less than were sold in the same timeframe in 2016.

Last year the median sale prices for Henrico homes was $219,975, whereas this month it's up to $232,500, a 6 percent increase. Which means half of the homes in Henrico are priced above $232,500 and half are priced below. > Read more.

Smither named director of Henrico’s Department of Finance

Henrico County Manager John A. Vithoulkas has appointed Edward N. “Ned” Smither Jr. to serve as director of the Department of Finance, effective July 1.

Smither has served Henrico since 2013 as director of the Accounting Division in Finance. He will succeed Eugene H. Walter, who has delayed his retirement until June 30 to ensure an orderly transition within the department.
> Read more.

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Spring PlantFest at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 5 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 6. Now in its 30th year, the plant sale features approximately 40 vendors from around the region offering a wide array of plants, shrubs, trees and garden-themed items. A tool sharpener will be on-site and for a fee will sharpen hand tools, knives and scissors with same-day service. Knowledgeable, helpful Garden volunteers and Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions and offer suggestions. Rain or shine. For details, call 262-9887 or visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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