A handmade sign reading “Democrats vote here” was placed outside the Bealeton Depot at Bealeton Library – one of two satellite registrar’s offices opened this week -- sometime Friday morning. All registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, may vote at the Bealeton office or any other polling location open either before or on Election Day. (In Virginia, voters are not even registered by party affiliation.)
The sign was still present at the corner of Station Drive and Willow Drive North as of 2 p.m. Friday.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. Friday, Fauquier County Democratic Committee Co-Chair Larry Jackson said he would remove the sign personally by the end of the day.
Jackson said the sign was made and placed by a Democratic volunteer without prior authorization by committee leadership. However, he said he saw a photograph of the sign after it was placed at the street corner Friday morning. “I viewed it as just a way to make sure our folks know where to go,” Jackson said, adding he did not think initially the sign implied that only Democrats were permitted to vote at the Bealeton office.
After the backlash, however, he said committee leaders decided to remove the sign. “We certainly don’t want to confuse anyone,” he said.
“I would like to think my counterparts [in the Fauquier County Democratic Committee] would recognize that the sign breeds confusion,” said Fauquier County Republican Committee Chair Greg Schumacher at approximately 2 p.m. Friday. He urged Democratic committee leaders to take the sign down. “I’m trying to give them the opportunity to do the right thing,” he said, adding at another point, “I think we can deescalate this.”
Schumacher said he received numerous calls from concerned members of the public who were confused about the sign. When residents intending to cast a ballot for Republican candidates have arrived at the Bealeton Depot, he said, “They say, ‘Where do we vote?’”
Several people who initially intended to cast a ballot for Republican candidates at the Bealeton Depot have left without voting, he said, because they were confused by the sign.
Deputy Registrar Diana Dutton said Friday that the sign was placed outside of the registrar’s area of jurisdiction, meaning her representatives of the registrar’s office were unable to remove it even if it was deemed inappropriate. (Campaign materials are prohibited in polling places and within 40 feet of polling places, but they are not prohibited outside the 40-foot buffer zone.)
Dutton emphasized that any registered voter – regardless of party affiliation or for whom the individual intends to vote -- may cast a ballot before Election Day at either of the three registrar’s office location in the county, or at the voter’s local polling place on Election Day.
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