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New Fairfax County voting precincts require some to change polling places

Voters fill out their ballots at Marshall High School in November 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved changes to more than half of the county’s voting precincts after a public hearing on Tuesday (March 8).

Spurred by last year’s state redistricting process, which redrew federal and state electoral districts to balance constituents based on 2020 Census data, the precinct adjustments will require around 4% of the county’s registered voters — approximately 29,000 people — to switch polling places.

The county-level redistricting efforts, completed in December, affected only seven precincts.

County officials are racing to implement the changes before the June 21 primary elections. They carry a one-time cost of $501,840 and a recurring annual cost of $54,400 for mail, personnel, and equipment to make sure people are aware of the changes, according to the county.

As noted by Fairfax County Electoral Board Secretary Kate Hanley, the precincts were revised based on the following guidelines:

  • Disrupt the fewest voters possible
  • Ensure precinct boundaries and polling places meet all legal requirements
  • Confirm polling places have adequate facilities to accommodate voters, including parking
  • Minimize the number of extremely small or extremely large precincts

The “re-precincting” changes will ensure each precinct has at least 100 voters and no more than 5,000, among other requirements. As a result, the county will have 17 more voting precincts and one more polling place, bringing the respective totals up to 264 precincts and 230 polling sites.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who chairs the Board of Supervisors’ Legislative Committee, attributed the need to adjust precincts to disruptive changes caused by the state’s redistricting, which sought to make little to no deviations in population between districts.

He said he hopes officials consider the cost of that approach for the next Census in 2030.

The General Assembly also passed a law that largely prohibited split precincts, complicating matters when the new district maps drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court “created numerous split precincts in the County,” county staff said in the board agenda.

Previously, a single precinct could generally serve voters in two different legislative districts.

“What we’re being asked to do is at the behest of the state and not being done at the behest of the county,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “It’s quite different than the minimally disruptive process that we went through for redistricting here in Fairfax County.”

Hanley told the board that election officials will need its help because a lot of people will be confused. An online system where voters can find their precinct doesn’t yet reflect the changes.

She said the county will seek to educate voters.

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