New Mechums River Voting Precinct Approved

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This close-up of the new Mechums River precinct shows that several recent Crozet developments—such as Foothills Crossing, Chesterfield Landing, and Westlake—will now vote at Western Albemarle High School beginning in June. Courtesy Albemarle County GIS.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Crozet is growing. And with all the new development come many more voters. “The Brownsville precinct has exploded,” said Albemarle County Voter Registrar Jake Washburne. “It had become ginormous.” Ten years ago, Brownsville had 2,866 registered voters; in 2017 that number had increased to 4,839. “That’s an increase of nearly 2,000 voters.” In the same period, the Crozet precinct grew from 3,550 to 4,154 (note that these are more up-to-date numbers than those shown on the map). “During the 2016 presidential election, we saw long lines and frayed nerves at both polling locations.” 

To handle this rapid growth, the Albemarle County Electoral Board recommended the creation of a third Western Albemarle voting precinct, which was approved by the Board of Supervisors at its March 14 meeting. Residents assigned to the newly created Mechums River precinct will vote at Western Albemarle High School beginning with the June 12 primary. This will result in a more balanced distribution of registered voters, with 3,310 voting at Crozet Elementary School, 2,553 voting at Brownsville Elementary School, and 3,099 voting at Western Albemarle High School. 

On the above map, the pink line marks the precinct boundaries before the new precinct was created. The area shaded in green represents the new Mechums River precinct, which runs from Mechums River north along Three Notch’d Road to the four-way stop in downtown Crozet, then south along Crozet Ave. (Rt. 810) to Rockfish Gap Turnpike (Rt. 250). Staying south of Rt. 250, it then runs west and south to Interstate 64. This means that many of the recent subdivisions and those currently being built—including Highlands, Western Ridge, Wickham Pond, Foothills Crossing, Westlake, Westhall, Parkside Village, Chesterfield Landing, Cory Farm, and Sparrow Hill (formerly Adelaide)—will now vote at Western Albemarle High School. Old Trail residents will still vote at Brownsville, while Grayrock, Orchard Acres, and Laurel Hills residents will still vote at Crozet. The numbers next to the named residential developments on the map indicate the number of dwelling units in each approved for future development. 

It is important to note that a voting precinct is different than a magisterial district. Residents in all three voting precincts will still vote for candidates in the While Hall magisterial district. The new voting precinct will only change where you vote, not who you vote for. The candidates who represent you on the Albemarle County School Board, Board of Supervisors, and in the Virginia state Senate and House of Delegates will not change.

Jake Washburne, Albemarle County Voter Registrar, noted the explosive growth in Crozet over the past decade. Photo: Clover Carroll.

The Albemarle County Electoral Board, along with Washburne and Elections Manager Clarice Schermerhorn, have been working on developing this plan for over a year, in close harmony with Tex Weaver, Derek Bedarf, and Andy Slack of the county mapping department, in response to their experiences at the 2016 presidential election. They used data such as voter registration rolls by address and an overlay map of precincts to come up with this plan. “We couldn’t shrink Crozet, but we needed to do something to control the explosive growth,” Washburne explained, “to keep the precincts manageable, reduce long lines, and solve the parking problem—especially at Crozet Elementary School.” The old precincts used to divide at the railroad track. “We wanted to find the best way to split the population up using major roads, without breaking up communities. This time, we used Rt. 250, Crozet Ave. (Rt. 810), Three Notch’d Rd. (Rt. 240), and Jarmans Gap Rd. (Rt. 691) as the boundaries instead,” Washburne explained. “Some residents from both old precincts have been affected.” They also recommended the creation of new precincts in the Jack Jouett, Cale, and Free Bridge areas, which have also been approved. “Finding a voting location for the new Western Albemarle precinct was easy,” Washburne confessed. “The others were a bit more challenging.”

Affected voters’ registrations will be transferred to the new district automatically, so residents do not need to take any action. The Electoral Board plans to send out new voter registration cards by the middle of May, well in advance of the June 12 primary, with the voting precinct clearly indicated. The outside of this envelope will be marked with a big red “Important Voting Information” message. The county community development office will also send public service announcements through the local media to remind voters of the changes both this spring and closer to the November election. As reported by the Daily Progress on March 14, the cost of these notifications will be about $5,000, to come from the county’s reserve fund. An ongoing budget expense of $14,000 will pay for additional staff and operational supplies. The Electoral Board plans to appoint the Chief and Assistant Chief for the new Mechums River precinct at their next meeting on April 4. 

Voters with questions may call the Albemarle County Registrar’s office at 434-972-4173, the electoral board at 434-296-5863, or email voterregistration@albemarle.org. 

The deadline to register to vote for the June 12, 2018, General Election is Monday, May 21 www.albemarle.org/department.asp?department=registrar.  “Some people may be confused in June,” Washburne admitted, “but that won’t be a huge turnout. Things will be more familiar by November. There will be a few hiccups, but we know that ultimately this will make everyone’s voting experience better.” 

The new Mechums River voting precinct will relieve pressure on the Crozet and Brownsville districts. The numbers to the left designate the expected number of dwellings in each of the approved subdivisions. Courtesy Albemarle County GIS.

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