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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.
Community

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

The Boathouse to open at Short Pump Town Center

The Boathouse restaurant will open at Short Pump Town Center in the spring, its third location in the region.

“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”

The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.

Getting a ‘mouf’-ful

Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.

Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?

Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.

Lakeside microbrewery beginning to take shape

Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space

A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.

Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.

Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.

Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.

“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.

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Local author Dr. Walter S. Griggs, Jr. will discuss the collapse of the Church Hill Tunnel at 7 p.m. at Dumbarton Library, 6800 Staples Mill Rd. For details, call 290-9400… Full text

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