Patrick Henry High School was a polling place in Hanover County on Primary Day, June 20, 2023. (Samantha Willis/The Virginia Mercury)
Voters in Hanover County appeared to have defeated a measure that would have converted its appointed school board to an elected body, demonstrated by a narrow lead of opposition votes as of late Wednesday afternoon after the polls closed Tuesday evening.
The Virginia Public Access Project on Wednesday afternoon projected that the measure to change the school board’s appointment system had failed, with over 52% of Hanover voters answering “No” to the question, “Shall the method of selecting the school board be changed from appointment by the governing body to direct election by the voters?” According to data from the Virginia Department of Elections, 2,309 votes separate the options as the county still counts provisional ballots as of Wednesday afternoon.
The outstanding provisional ballots did not stop Hanover Parents Against Political School Boards from claiming victory Wednesday morning. The social media group was opposed to making Hanover’s school board elected.
“We did it,” the group said in a Facebook post. “Yesterday we proved that our Hanover School Board is not for sale.” Hanover is a “special place with some of the best schools in Virginia,” the group continued, closing out their message by thanking residents for voting against the referendum.
A total of 66.8% of voters in Hanover County turned out for the General Election. Nearly 45,000 of the county’s 86,000 registered voters cast a vote on the school board referendum.
The Hanover County Registration and Elections Office did not immediately respond to when the results of the provisional ballots would be available.
According to the Department of Elections, the local electoral board reviews each provisional ballot during its canvass of votes cast to determine if the vote will be counted. The electoral board reviews provisional ballots the day after Election Day and the process must be concluded within seven days.
Tim McDermott, a volunteer with the Hanover Citizens for an Elected School Board, said the group will continue following the results of the provisional ballots still being considered, but did point out that a lot of “yes” votes would be needed to close the gap with the opposition.
“We’re disappointed with the way the vote has turned out,” he said, but “we’re hopeful that the provisional ballots will yield something.”
Michael Berdan, a volunteer with the “Vote Yes” campaign, said there was a lot of enthusiasm and money poured into the campaign to transform the school board into an elected body, but Hanoverians were “drowning in a sea of unfounded nonsense” and mistakenly characterized the referendum as “one for political school boards.”
“Our campaign was hopeful and positive, funded by small-dollar, local donations by individuals,” Berdan wrote. “I am proud to have been part of it, and look forward to the next time we bring this question to voters.”
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