The entire Dillwyn Town Council is running for re-election, but the Buckingham County town’s 240-plus registered voters won’t find the candidates’ names on the Nov. 7 ballot.
They’re all running write-in campaigns.
“Our town clerk retired earlier this year and she pretty much took care of everything for us and kept us up to date,” said Linda V. Paige, who is seeking her third term as mayor of Dillwyn. “It’s one of those things we just missed. We were talking a while back and someone said, ‘Hey, is anyone running for re-election? When do we sign up?’ Then we realized that we had missed it.”
Although the official Dillwyn ballot will appear blank, there are candidates who want the jobs. Besides Paige, Karen Sue Moss, Tora L. Jones, Sharon Baker, Ossie J. Harris III, James E. Tyree and Gilbert W. Reams also are hoping to return to the council.
“Their names won’t be on the ballot because they missed the deadline to register as candidates, so it’s a write-in situation,” said Margaret Thomas, Buckingham County’s registrar. “We’ve made some adjustments to the write-in process to make it a little smoother so it won’t be much of a problem. There are only about 244 registered voters in Dillwyn, so it won’t be that much more difficult.”
In larger counties, the need to count write-in votes by hand could slow down the process and create a bit of a headache for election officials.
But Thomas said the write-in status of Dillwyn candidates won’t be problem when it comes to vote counting on election night.
“The biggest problem is that, to be counted, the oval in front of the line that says ‘write-in candidate’ has to be filled in, just like the oval in front of a name that’s printed on the ballot,” Thomas said. “The obviously fictitious names we don’t bother to count.”
Virginia law prohibits write-in candidates in primary elections, which are specifically for determining party nominees. Law also declares that write-in votes are not counted in presidential elections.
However, Virginians have the right “to enter the full name of a write-in candidate if the candidate of choice is not on the ballot” for state and local elections.
Exact interpretation of the statute is left up to local elections boards. Some require that the names be accurately spelled and include middle initials. In 1993, Sally H. Thomas won election to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors as an independent write-in candidate. In that election, votes for Thomas required the correct spelling of her name.
But Buckingham’s elections board has made a few concessions for Dillwyn to make it easier, considering the blank ballot that voters will face.
“The elections board has voted to accept different spellings of a person’s name, but we cannot accept just the last name,” Thomas said. “The board has also voted to accept the initials in a name because it’s been determined no one else in the town would have the same initials and last name. Like Linda V. Paige is running for re-election as mayor. If someone writes in L.V. Paige, those initials would be unique to the candidate.”
Paige said that, unlike a city the size of Charlottesville, a town like Dillwyn doesn’t always have the staff dedicated to serving the council. Often, candidates are sought out by others who are in office or are stepping down.
That’s how Paige, who has served in public office since 1998, ended up on the Town Council.
“Years ago, the mayor came to me and said, ‘We need someone on the council and you were recommended,’ and I thought, ‘Wow,’” she recalled. “There were six seats open and seven names on the ballot, and I won one of the seats.”
When that mayor died while in office, the vice mayor took over and Paige was appointed vice mayor. When the new mayor died, Paige, a cancer survivor, took over the top job.
“I thought, ‘Uh-oh! That’s two mayors that have died in office, and look at me,’” she laughed.
She won her second term as mayor without competition.
“No one else wanted to run, so I won my second two-year term,” she recalled. “I’ve been on the council or mayor for 19 years now, and it has its moments. I like the people in the town and I like the fact that we’ve been able to help some of them.”
Sometimes being mayor can be a bit inconvenient. Town residents often call to get help for a variety of issues, from leaking roofs to barking dogs. When the power went out in Dillwyn a few years ago, the town clock went a bit haywire, chiming at inconvenient hours.
The mayor soon heard about it.
“It would chime at 6 in the morning and 9 at night, and I got a lot of phone calls from people who wanted it changed,” Paige said with a laugh. “We get a lot of calls from people who have problems, and we do our best. People know me and they know that if we can fix it, we will fix it.”