Augusta to Poll Inspectors: Wait until after Election

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Augusta County is turning away federal inspectors who want to visit polling places ahead of Tuesday's primary election.

The Department of Justice is investigating a reported complaint about handicap accessibility at the county's polls. Augusta County's Board of Elections is sending a letter to the department, denying inspectors access to polling places during next Tuesday's primary.

The board held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon to respond to the department's request.

The county attorney says Augusta received an inquiry from the Department of Justice in February in regards to handicap accessibility at its 26 polling places. The county says it responded with all available information on March 5.

The Board of Elections was notified two days ago that the department was sending inspectors next Monday and Tuesday to assess accessibility, but the board is telling the inspectors to stay away.

"It's the Board's decision that we're not willing to put our officers of election through that. Their responsibility is to the voter. We just don't feel like it's fair to ask them to deal with outside people asking questions," said Ruth Talmage, board chair.

Board members say they were surprised by the request. They're inviting inspectors to come any other time - just not around an election. The county says it does everything it can to accommodate handicapped voters, including portable polling machines for curbside voting at all precincts.

The Department of Justice has not responded to NBC29's request for information about the complaint.

Read the board's letter to the department below.

Letter from the Augusta County Board of Elections to the Department of Justice:

The Board of Elections has become very concerned about you proposed visitation of Augusta County Polling Places on Monday, June 10 and Tuesday, June 11. Since our last exchange of emails, the Board has sought the advice of the State Board of Elections and other sources to determine the advisability of having visitors from the Department of Justice inspecting our polling places on an election day. After receiving advice from the various sources, the Board of Elections has concluded that permitting such inspections is not in the best interest of Augusta County, at this time. Therefore, I regret to inform you that the Board of Elections will not authorize you to inspect the polling places as previously planned.

If you still wish to speak with me on the matter of complaints you received, I will still be available Monday afternoon. However, since an inspection of the polling places is no longer possible, I suggest we converse by telephone.

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