By: Sherry Williams Kidd | Email: Click Here
Posted: Apr. 23, 2018 | 3:20 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Prince George County’s long-time General registrar and beloved county employee, Katherine Tyler, has announced her plans for retirement after an amazing 47-year career! As one can imagine, much like the county, the nation, and the world, Katherine Tyler has witnessed many changes in these 47 years of service to the county.
“My first experience with the electoral process began in November 1971, when I served as an Officer of Election. It was the first year the old Shoup mechanical machines were used in Prince George,” Tyler said. “After eight years, in 1979, an opening became available in the Registrar’s Office, so I applied for, and was promoted, to Assistant Registrar. Those 19 years, Part-time, worked in a permanent part-time position, and I worked three days a week until I was appointed General Registrar in March 1998,” she added.
Tyler stated that when she began working for the Registrar’s Office that Betty Kingery was the General Registrar. “She was a good friend and a wonderful teacher.”
Katherine Tyler is married to Joseph Tyler. They have three grown, married children, one unmarried son, and 11 grandchildren.
“Needless to say, holidays are really fun and joyous at our home,” Tyler said.
Tyler has seen numerous changes in her 47-years of working with the Registrar’s Office, both before and after becoming the General Registrar. In 1998, new optical scan voting machines were used. In 2004, the county brought in new touch-screen accessible voting machines for those with disabilities.
Prince George General Registrar, Kathrine Tyler, checks ballot for the June 12, 2018, Republican Primary for final approval before submission to printer. (Rodger Allen Kidd)
“After much publicity about touch-screens not being reliable, and not providing a paper trail, the touch screens were decertified in 2017, right after we had decided to get new machines,” Tyler said.
“We acquired new voting equipment in 2017, the DS200, an Express-Vote system for accessibility for the disabled. These new machines work great. The election officials highly approved,” Tyler added with pride.
“Katherine always trained her poll workers well and has demanded a commitment to helping those who show up to the polls on election day. She worked well with the voting places and encouraged full access for the disabled and elderly. She always maintains a customer-friendly staff who upholds the same standards as she does, but Katherine always takes phone calls from citizens or candidates when they want to talk to her. Her explanations are always easy to understand, and her motherly personality makes you feel good inside and makes you glad you had a chance to speak with her,” said Percy Ashcraft, Prince George County Administrator.
Tyler stated there are several sayings that are quite popular and regularly heard in the Registrar’s Office.
“We don’t care who wins, just so they win big!” “Not to vote IS to vote.” “Do it right the first time.” “Don’t vote, don’t complain.”
The number one question always asked about the Registrar’s Office is what they do when there is no election going on. Many people assume that the Registrar’s Office has no work other than overseeing election day.
“Not so,” Tyler chuckled.
Elections must be advertised, in newspapers and on the county web page. The Electoral Board meets and appoints Officers of Election to work the election, and sets dates for training, final testing, and sealing of the voting equipment. Letters are sent to each officer of Election, advising them of their appointment. Letters are sent to the precincts to notify them, especially the schools used as voting precincts. Ballot styles have to be determined. Since Prince George County is split between House of Delegates Districts, it has to be determined how many different styles of ballots are needed. There are three split precincts, two precincts split into two House of Delegates districts, and one precinct split between all three House of Delegates districts. Sometimes there are six to eight different ballots.
Ballots have to be ordered after it has been determined how many will be required. Absentee ballot voting must be prepared. This type of voting begins 45 days prior to an election.
Performing daily work picks up during this time because of the impending election. Employees must train anywhere from 80 to 100 Officers of Election. All election supplies for all 11 precincts must be ordered and packed. There is sometimes overtime work at night and on weekends. There is also daily conducting of in-person absentee voting in the office, and the daily mailing of ballots.
“There are political icons, and then there are icons who make a huge presence in the world of politics without ever putting their name on the ballot. I am sure that Katherine has her own political views, but to discuss politics with her, you would never know whether she was a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. She marches ultimately down the middle of the road, staying out of the campaigns, and just guiding Prince George County into the modern era of holding elections,” said Ashcraft.
Tyler explained that the Registrar’s Office is open the last two Saturdays before every General Election, and one Saturday for Primaries, for in-person absentee voting. Employees arrive to work on election day around 4:00 a.m., and stay until late in the evening until all election results are in.
The Officers of Election then bring their equipment and supplies back to the Registrar’s Office, usually anywhere from 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. At this time, election results are finally sent to the Board of Elections in Richmond.
The day after each election, the Electoral Board comes in to canvass the election. Certain items are sent to the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, and then the Electoral Board goes over all of the paperwork from each precinct, and check for any errors. They then certify the correct numbers.
“As you can see, there is far more to an election than just that one day. After the payroll is completed for the Officers of Election, we can finally relax and breathe a little,” said Tyler.
The process then starts again, even when there is no impending election. The office begins its daily work, which is now on the state computer system. Tasks include adding New voters, changing/updating Addresses, deleting voter’s that move or are deceased, deleting voters with felonious records, running daily reports to verify that records are correct and up-to-date, answering phone inquiries, taking care of voters in-person, and providing information and election statistics to voters, or the general public.
“There are so many other daily duties. With newer technology, we stay busy all the time and are constantly learning new, faster, and improved ways to complete our work,” Tyler said.
Tyler recalled that during one of the very busy Presidential elections, they kept receiving calls inquiring whether or not they had early voting.
“It seems some of the news was reporting that Virginia was allowing early voting. Well, we only have Absentee voting prior to the official voting time, and there must be a reason for the absentee voting. After many of these calls, perhaps 20 or more, I started telling people that we do indeed have early voting, and it starts at 6:00 a.m. on election day, and that we also have absentee voting available. Some people actually thought they were getting a deal by being allowed to vote at 6:00 a.m.,” Tyler chuckled. “This has been such a fun and rewarding job, and I have so loved working here. That is why I have waited so long to retire. I have worked with wonderful co-workers, and I have always had great Electoral Boards to work with. The county has always been so kind and supportive of this office, and has provided everything I have needed to run smooth and efficient elections.”
“Katherine Tyler’s office has always provided the ultimate in customer service. She understands how important it is for people to get involved in our political process, which above all else, is to vote,” said Ashcraft.
Katherine Tyler will be retiring on July 1, 2018.
“I don’t have any immediate plans for anything except to rest for awhile, and then maybe travel. I just want to enjoy my family, especially my grandchildren,” Tyler stated with a bright smile.
The Electoral Board has appointed Allan Richeson as the new General Registrar for Prince George County. He will begin on July 1, 2018. Richeson is currently serving as General Registrar in Hopewell.
“Mr. Richeson is very personable and is well-qualified for this position. We expect a very smooth transition. Under Mr. Richeson’s leadership, this office will continue its tradition of conducting fair, honest, and ethical elections in Prince George County,” Tyler said.
“Katherine Tyler will ride into the sunset with a standing ovation at her back and the remembrance of an outstanding career of public service in every day of her future,” said Ashcraft.