HARRISONBURG — Rockingham County’s largest precinct could be split in two by this fall.
The county Electoral Board voted to divide the Bridgewater precinct at a special meeting on Tuesday morning.
Democrats Linda Shuler and Trish Philon and Republican Susan Threewitts backed the measure.
The board oversees federal, state and municipal elections in the city.
With 3,558 registered voters as of Monday, Bridgewater is by far the largest of the county’s 30 precincts. The next closest is Crossroads with 2,792 registered voters.
Coincidentally, Crossroads was the last precinct split when the county broke it off from Massanetta Springs in 2015. At the time, Massanetta Springs had nearly 4,500 registered voters.
At roughly 6,000 residents, Bridgewater also is the most populous of the county’s seven towns. Each locality has one voting precinct contained to town limits.
Bridgewater would be divided along Va. 42, which is Main Street in the town.
Residents west of the road would be in the newly named West Bridgewater precinct and continue to vote at the Bridgewater Community Center. Everyone on the east side of town would be in the East Bridgewater precinct and vote at Bridgewater Church of the Brethren.
West Bridgewater would have 1,337 voters and East Bridgewater would have 2,024.
The board considered other ways to divide the town, but decided Main Street wouldn’t be the easiest boundary line.
“It’ll be clearer for the voters,” Philon said. “They’ll still be confused, but they’ll be less confused.”
Town Council races would remain townwide elections and everyone in Bridgewater would continue to be represented by District 4 Supervisor Bill Kyger and state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham.
Although Bridgewater isn’t near the maximum of 5,000 registered voters required under state law, Registrar Lisa Gooden said the area is seeing growth and it’s been difficult to manage elections at the precinct.
“That’s why we wanted to kind of be more proactive,” Gooden said.
All but two precincts have added voters since the June 2017 primary, but Bridgewater has grown 5.7 percent in that time, adding 194 voters, which is 70 more than the next biggest increase.
Another issue pushing the decision is a moratorium on changes to precincts between Feb. 1 2019, and May 15, 2021, as the state begins a redistricting process with the 2020 Census.
“There’s probably going to be a lot of growth between now and then,” Philon said.
The change doesn’t address a redistricting error that puts about 20 voters in the district of Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, while everyone else in Bridgewater is represented by Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave. The voters represented by Wilt will all vote in the West Bridgewater precinct.
The change must be approved by the Board of Supervisors, but doesn’t require a public hearing, Gooden said. The board will consider the request in August.
All voters in town will be sent a letter notifying them of the changes, which will be effective for the Nov. 6 election.
In other business, Gooden updated the board on candidates for two special elections this fall.
Gooden said no one has filed to run for the District 2 seat on the Board of Supervisors. In April, Sallie Wolfe-Garrison was appointed to the position to replace former Supervisor Fred Eberly, who resigned due to health issues.
Gooden said one person, Robert R.J. Ohgren, is the only candidate to file for a seat on Dayton Town Council. The seat was vacated when Councilwoman Shelley Newman resigned last month. Council will vote to appoint her replacement at a special meeting on Aug. 6.
Interested candidates for each election have until Aug. 17 at 5 p.m. to file. For more information, contact the registrar’s office at 564-3055.