Thousands in VA were forced to cast provisional ballots

By Rob Manch - Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - More than 24 hours after polls closed, thousands here in Virginia are still fighting to vote.

Many who were not properly registered were forced to cast provisional ballots Tuesday.

Melissa Simmons was one of those thousands who were trying to register to voteĀ  on Monday, October 17th, the last day to do so.

She had to do it so late because she's an ex-felon, who only found out her rights had been restored earlier that month.

Amidst the chaos of that day, she was told she got her registration in, but when she actually got to the polls, it was a different story.

Simmons says, when she left the registrar's office last month, she thought she was all set to vote for the first time in her life.

"I've even got it right here, registration is finished," said Simmons.

She carries with her a letter from the Governor re-instating her rights and a copy of her online registration.

She was even recorded on video submitting her paperwork, but when she got to her voting precinct, it turned out none of it mattered.

"Yesterday, when I went to vote, they didn't have me in the computer, so I started getting worried," said Simmons.

Simmons says, after 47 years of waiting to cast her ballot, she couldn't believe another obstacle was in her way.

"It's not fair, and I don't understand. It's like they took my rights away from me again," said Simmons.

Simmons isn't alone.

On Tuesday, more than 13,000 other voters in the state of Virginia had to cast provisional ballots.

More than 100 of those were in the City of Roanoke.

Those ballots have to be reviewed by the electoral board before they're counted.

Simmons was determined going into her review on Wednesday.

"I've worked too hard for them to take this away from me," said Simmons.

The media was not allowed inside the meeting.

After the half hour review, we caught up with Simmons again.

"Told me that my vote counted and that I'm now a registered voter," said Simmons.

Simmons says the board didn't admit to any wrongdoing, but she can assume what happened.

"They were saying that there were only two things that could have happened to my paperwork. Either I made a mistake and didn't hand in the right thing, or that it had apparently been misplaced or lost here," said Simmons.

Because Simmons had video of her handing her paperwork in, only the second explanation made sense: the registrar's office messed up.

Simmons says she's happy to officially be registered, but the process shouldn't be this hard.

"I'm sort of frustrated. It makes me wonder what's happened to other people. There are other people in there fighting to find out why their vote didn't count," said Simmons.

We asked the registrar's office for a comment, but they declined, as they still had two other voters' provisional ballot cases to hear before the close of business Wednesday.

As for Simmons, her vote will count, if only a day late.

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