Virginia election nears finish line

Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, and Bill Helsley, the Democratic challenger, are running in the 26th District race for a House of Delegates seat.

With information from contributor Logan Roddy

Virginia voters today will decide their next governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and the makeup of the state House of Delegates, including the winner of the 26th District that covers Harrisonburg and part of Rockingham County. 

Candidates for governor Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat, and Republican Glenn Youngkin have made national headlines as one of the few statewide races this year, positioning this race as a potential bellwether for next year’s midterm elections. That has given pollsters and pundits plenty to talk about this fall. The two major party gubernatorial candidates are joined by Princess Blanding of the Liberation Party. 

Also on ballots statewide are the candidates for lieutenant governor — Hala Ayala, the Democrat, and Winsome Sears, the Republican — as well as the candidates for attorney general, including incumbent Democrat Mark Herring and Republican challenger Jason Miyares. 

On the ballot for Harrisonburg voters, the only contested local race is for the 26th state House of Delegates seat, which Republican Del. Tony Wilt of Broadway has held since 2010. He faces Democrat Bill Helsley, a lawyer from McGaheysville. The 26th District covers all of Harrisonburg and precincts in western and northern Rockingham County. Wilt turned back challenges from Democrat Brent Finnegan in 2019 and 2017 by garnering 54% and 55% of the vote, respectively. 

The only other named candidates on the ballot are Karen Rose for commissioner of revenue and Jeffrey Shafer for treasurer. 

Mark Finks, Harrisonburg’s director of elections and general registrar, confirmed last week that Harrisonburg sent out a total of 832 absentee ballots — far fewer than the 4,102 absentee ballots mailed out in the 2020 election. 

By last week, about 2,500 had voted early in person. But that, too, was well off last fall’s pace heading up to the presidential election. But that election fell amid the height of the pandemic and before anyone was vaccinated, prompting many people to avoid crowds.   

Finks told The Citizen in an email that local election officials have found few problems with improperly filled-out ballots. Problems typically include a voter failing to get a witness signature or the voter not fully filling out envelop “B,” which is where the ballot is placed for its return.  

“We have only had six ballots returned without a witness signature,” Finks said.  

Finks said because trust in the election process is paramount, he has sought to be clear and open about how the election process works. 

“I have made an effort to make sure we are as transparent as possible in how we conduct elections in the Harrisonburg,” he said. “I have met with a few concerned individuals to answer questions about our processes.”

The Citizen will have coverage of 26th District and how Harrisonburg voted in the statewide races Tuesday night. 

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