Lynchburg City Hall. Photo by Joe Stinnett.
Lynchburg City Hall. Photo by Joe Stinnett.

Update as of June 1, 9:00 p.m.: The Lynchburg Electoral Board has hired a new registrar, Daniel Pense.

The new Republican majority on the Lynchburg Electoral Board has told Registar Christine Gibbons she won’t be rehired and plans to vote on a successor Thursday.

The lone Democratic member of the board said this was a political move and said Republicans improperly questioned Gibbons about her mental health.

The letter sent to Registrar Christine Gibbions informing her she would not be reappointed. Courtesy of Gibbons.
The letter sent to Registrar Christine Gibbions informing her she would not be reappointed. Courtesy of Gibbons.

Registrar Christine Gibbons confirmed that she was notified via letter May 30 by board secretary Betty Gibbs that her contract would not be renewed after June 30, 2023. 

According to Virginia Code 24.2-110, registrars hold office for a four-year term “and each fourth year thereafter and continue in office until a successor is appointed and qualifies.”

However, the interpretation of the code has been up for debate by the board, causing some to question why Gibbons was not rehired. 

By law, electoral boards in Virginia consist of three members, two from the governor’s party and one from the party that came in second, which means that with Glenn Youngkin’s governorship, all electoral boards in the state now have 2-1 Republican majorities.

Former Chair Carolyn Sherayko, a Democrat who resigned in March protesting the board’s decision to hire a new registrar, said that the law has a “loophole” where it does not specifically talk about reappointment of a registrar at the end of the term.

Sherayko said it seemed like a “coordinated attack” against Gibbons, who has been the registrar since 2018. While a registrar’s term ends at the end of June, it is common for the general registrar’s contract to be renewed if their yearly reviews have been positive. 

“None of this was done in private,” Gibbons said. “It was all done in public. Everything that I learned that the majority of the board was doing was completely in public — no conversations with me beforehand.” 

According to Gibbons, her first review was six months after she was hired in 2018 and then yearly after that. The last review was in July 2022 and all her reviews were positive, according to Electoral Board Chair David Neumeyer, the Democrat who replaced Sherayko. (Disclosure: Neumeyer is a member of our community advisory board, but board members have no role in news decisions; see our policy).

“I was not in favor of this hiring process at all,” Neumeyer said. “In her four years, [Gibbons] has only gotten positive evaluations, and if my Republican colleagues have concerns about the way she does her job, the way for us to respond is to renew her position in June … and to go through the evaluation process which the Code of Virginia requires the electoral board to do every July.”

Annual reviews must be completed by Aug. 1.

Gibbons and three other candidates were interviewed for the position, Neumeyer said. He said that the board did not meet beforehand to discuss a list of questions for the applicants. When he asked Republican board member Steve “Doc” Troxel if he had prepared a list of questions, Troxel said he did not and had individual questions for each candidate based on their resumes and applications.

Troxel confirmed that he did not prepare questions, saying that he wanted the interviews to be “conversational.”

Gibbons called her job interview with the board “anything but a normal interview.” She noted that she was asked about her communication style but also was asked questions regarding a 2020 incident where a sign was placed on her front lawn that read “Christine Gibbons Belongs In Jail. Lock Her Up.”

  • The sign that appeared on Christine Gibbons' yard in October 2020. Courtesy of Gibbons.
  • A later view of the sign. Courtesy of Gibbons.

She reported the sign to police. While no charges were filed, Gibbons said she believes the sign was retaliation in response to a complaint by the Lynchburg Republican City Committee claiming that the registrar’s office had processed and scanned absentee ballots without a Republican representative present in October 2020. (Under Virginia law, absentee ballots can be scanned before Election Day but the machines aren’t allowed to produce vote totals.) Gibbons testified that 244 ballots were scanned that day.

A judge dismissed the suit, ruling that Gibbons hadn’t deliberately violated the law.

On the day of the incident, Gibbons said she received an email at 6 a.m. from the Republican representative stating that he had an emergency and could not be there for the count. Gibbons said a Republican representative was present all other days.

“In hindsight, I should have gone back and reread the law,” Gibbons said. 

Gibbons was not asked about the incident in her May interview but was asked about the sign, which she had discussed in an October 2020 meeting where she addressed general concerns about safety for election officials across the country citing the sign that was placed at her private residence .

“[Troxel said] ‘you brought this sign up’ and said, ‘you were seeking counseling for PTSD. Are you still in counseling?’” Gibbons said.  “Then he asked me if I could do this job for the next four years.” 

Neumeyer confirmed that Troxel asked about whether Gibbons had sought counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the sign incident and said that he objected to the question. Gibbons said she objected to it, as well, and did not answer the question.

“That is not a question you ask in a job interview,” Gibbons told Cardinal News.

When asked by Cardinal if he knew that employers are prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act to ask questions about physical and mental illness, including treatment, Troxel said he did not. “I stopped that line and went directly to a question about the PTSD.” 

When asked by Cardinal if he knew that PTSD is considered a disability and cannot be asked about in a job interview unless accommodations are asked for, Troxel said it was never made clear to him whether Gibbons had been officially diagnosed with PTSD or was “merely making a comment.” 

“Basically, I was concerned about Christine as a person,” Troxel said. “The way I was asking it I was told that was not the correct way to do that.”

Troxel was also asked how he rephrased the question. He said he did “not want to venture to say over the phone something I don’t particularly remember.” 

He also said he could not recall if he asked a specific question of any of the other candidates about their mental health because “none of them said anything along those lines.”

“Again, I was concerned about her after she said that and I wanted to follow up with that concern,” he said. 

While Troxel and Neumeyer both declined to name the chosen applicant before Thursday’s vote, Neumeyer did say that the person chosen had no prior experience in an election office or role and that one of the applicant’s references was the husband of the Lynchburg Republican Party chair. 

“I do believe it’s partisan reasons for wanting to replace Christine,” Neumeyer said.

Troxel said he believes that what the board is doing is in full compliance with the law.

“It is our intention to appoint the very best candidate to be the registrar for the next four years,” he said. “The vast majority of people just want to come and vote. We will do that with the best team available to make sure every person who is supposed to vote gets to vote. That’s one vote per citizen. We are going to do the best to move the registrar’s office and the election process in the state of Virginia forward.”

Cardinal News also reached out to Betty Gibbs, the other Republican board member, for comment, but did not hear back. 

The Electoral Board meets at 4 p.m. Thursday in city council chambers, 900 Church Street.

Tobi Laukaitis brings nearly 10 years of experience covering news in Central Virginia. She began her...