Fairfax County’s General Assembly delegation could get a serious shake-up in upcoming elections.

Virginia’s new redistricting maps, which were unanimously approved by the state Supreme Court late last month, created four open General Assembly seats, while pairing some long-time incumbents.

The maps also altered U.S. House of Representatives electoral boundaries. They are in effect for the 2022 general election, which will have members of Congress and the state Senate on the ballot.

Intended to reflect population changes shown by 2020 Census data, the maps were drawn by two court-appointed “special masters” — one Democrat and one Republican — after a nonpartisan commission failed to complete the task. It was a contentious process in comparison to Fairfax County’s redistricting efforts last year.

Under the new maps, there are three open seats representing Fairfax County in the House of Delegates and one open seat in the state Senate, according to analysis by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project:

House of Delegates

  • District 11, which is bounded by Hunter Mill and Lawyers roads in Oakton to the north and Braddock Road past Fairfax City to the south
  • District 15, which encompasses Burke up north to Little River Turnpike and reaches the Loudoun County border to the south
  • District 19, which follows Telegraph Road starting in Hayfield and includes Lorton, Mason Neck, and parts of Prince William County

Senate

  • District 33, which covers Burke into Prince William County

The county’s Congressional districts for Reps. Don Beyer, Jennifer Wexton, and Gerry Connolly remain intact, though with District 10 shifting further south, Wexton now represents a smaller portion of county residents than before.

However, at the state level, four House and two Senate districts now have incumbents living within the same district lines, requiring them to make a choice: run in a primary against a colleague, move to another district, or retire.

Throughout the redistricting process, the special masters said aligning with incumbents’ residences was not a priority compared to other considerations, like compactness and preserving communities of interest.

“It’s a challenge for any incumbent when paired with a colleague after redistricting, especially within the same political party, to decide whether he or she should continue on or call it a day for the public service,” said George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government professor David Ramadan, a former delegate himself. “Bottom line, this is politics, and each member is going to do what that member thinks is best for them.” Read More

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(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) While Democrats fared well in Fairfax County, sweeping the local delegate races, Virginia will return to a Republican governor with Glenn Youngkin after former Gov. Terry McAuliffe failed to replicate his 2013 victory.

McAuliffe conceded today (Wednesday), congratulating the governor-elect, thanking supporters, and stressing the need to improve Virginia.

The results are still unofficial and won’t be certified until Nov. 15. Ballots are still being counted too, though many news outlets, including the Associated Press, called the race last night.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told FFXnow that the election results will not alter the pride that the county takes in its diversity or his commitment to the One Fairfax policy, which advocates for equity.

In a statement, McKay said he will “always fight for the interests of Fairfax County and will work with our statewide leaders to ensure we continue to have one of the best education systems in the country, provide high-quality services, prioritize public health and safety, and ensure Fairfax County is a place where everyone has access to opportunity and growth.”

The Fairfax County Democratic Committee celebrated victories for 15 incumbent delegates as well as newcomers Irene Shin (86th District) and Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (45th District), while calling the overall results “grim.”

“Fairfax County overwhelmingly rejected the message of Youngkin,” FCDC Chair Bryan Graham said in a statement. “…We will continue to reject the anti-immigrant, anti-public education, and anti-equity notions of the Republican Party.”

FFXnow contacted the Fairfax County Republican Committee for comment but has not heard back as of press time.

The county’s lone Republican supervisor, Pat Herrity, who represents Springfield District, said it’s a good day for Fairfax County residents.

“I think this election marks the beginning of a movement to bring all Virginians together to focus on common sense solutions to everyday problems instead of partisan politics and rhetoric,” Herrity said in a statement. “This includes a new focus on public safety, our education system, the economy and the cost of government.”

Youngkin’s victory will have a direct effect on future Fairfax County elections.

State law dictates that two seats of the county’s three-member Electoral Board represent the political party that won the most recent gubernatorial race. The runner-up party gets the third seat. Board members serve three-year terms with one seat opening up each year.

The board’s duties include administering absentee ballots and conducting elections.

While voting in Fairfax County unfolded smoothly for the most part, technical issues led to a delay in reporting some results from in-person early voting.

Approximately 20,000 electronic ballots had to be re-scanned because thumb drives were corrupted and didn’t work, affecting four machines at voting sites, said Brian Worthy, a spokesperson with the Fairfax County Office of Elections.

“That’s why we have paper ballots,” he said, noting that the backups allowed the rescanning to occur.

Fairfax County Turnout for Democrats Weakens

Turnout in Fairfax County was nearly the same as the last gubernatorial race in 2017, when 56.1% of active voters cast a ballot. Unofficial results from Tuesday showed around 437,000 ballots cast out of over 780,000 registered voters, a 55.99% turnout, according to a county elections report.

While early voting was significant, influenced by a 2020 change in state law to allow no-excuse absentee voting, it failed to reach the level of turnout seen last year, when there was a presidential race on the ballot.

Support for McAuliffe from voters in Fairfax County, the state’s most populous area, was strong, but not quite as robust as it was for previous Democratic candidates, including in the last gubernatorial race and last year’s presidential election.

Fairfax County voters favored McAuliffe with 64.6% of the vote in this year’s general election, whereas they supported Joe Biden’s bid for the presidency in 2020 with a 69.4% majority. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam won Fairfax County in 2017 with 66.5% of the vote.

Once the results are certified, Youngkin will be sworn in for his four-year term on Jan. 15.

Matt Blitz contributed to this report. 

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Updated on Nov. 9 — The Fairfax County of Elections reported an estimated 26.1% turnout for Election Day, as of 3:45 p.m., pushing the total turnout to 49% overall.

Earlier: About 40% of Fairfax County voters have now cast a ballot in Virginia’s 2021 general election, which will determine the next occupants of the governor’s mansion and the House of Delegates.

More than 170,000 of those ballots came in before Election Day, accounting for 23.3% of the county’s 730,300 active voters, according to the Fairfax County Office of Elections’ last early voting report.

The county registrar is anticipating a 50 to 60% total turnout for this election, Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy confirmed.

With the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting last year, the county has seen a dramatic increase in early voting compared to the last gubernatorial election in 2017, resulting in fewer crowds and lines on Election Day itself.

The Office of Elections estimates that, as of 1:10 p.m., it has seen a nearly 18% turnout since polls opened at 6 a.m. today (Tuesday). Polling sites in different areas of the county reported steady but not overwhelming streams of voters showing up before noon.

Around 300 voters had passed through Reston Community Center’s Hunters Woods facility by 10:30 a.m., and Marshall High School in Idylwood saw over 600 voters before 11:30 a.m., according to elections officials at those precincts.

An elections chief at Coates Elementary School in Herndon told FFXnow that more than 500 people had voted there this morning. A volunteer suggested the rainy weather, which forecasts indicate will continue through the afternoon, could be affecting turnout.

One resident who stopped by Coates to vote with his daughter cited his desire to support local schools as a motivating factor, with a bond referendum that would enable Fairfax County Public Schools to spend $365 million on renovation projects on the ballot.

Kishore Sadala, who has lived near Coates Elementary for over a decade, said he wanted to vote out of a sense of civic duty.

After moving back to Virginia from Maryland to care for her parents, Indya Gordon says she felt it was important to vote due to the more unpredictable nature of Virginia’s elections, with this year’s gubernatorial contest expected to be a nail-biter.

“I think this is one of the most important elections of our time,” she said after voting at Coates Elementary School.

One of only two states with statewide offices on the ballot this year, Virginia is being treated as a bellwether for the national political mood and potential foreshadowing for next year’s Congressional mid-term elections by both Democrats and Republicans.

In addition to choosing either Terry McAuliffe or Glenn Youngkin as governor, voters are deciding the state’s next lieutenant governor, attorney general, and House of Delegates, where all 100 seats are up for election.

Polls remain open until 7 p.m.

The Fairfax County Office of Elections notes that results will be reported slightly differently than they have been in the past.

In accordance with a new state law, results from mail-in ballots will be released first, followed by early vote totals. The results will be updated throughout the night as precincts tally votes cast in-person on Election Day.

While the majority of votes are expected to be included in tonight’s unofficial results, mail-in absentee votes are accepted as long as they arrive by noon on Friday (Nov. 5), so the results will be incomplete.

In addition, the Office of Elections will only be reporting countywide vote totals for each candidate, rather than breaking the results down by precinct. Precinct-level results can be found instead through the Virginia Department of Elections.

“Because precinct level results are still available on the state’s website, we’re focusing on what most people are interested in: the total votes for each candidate — in other words, who’s won and lost,” Worthy said. “However you’ll also see the breakout for each candidate for early and mail-in votes.”

David Taube and Jay Westcott contributed to this report.

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In a meeting room that more resembles a college classroom than the stateliness of the board auditorium just two floors down, 20 volunteers are redrawing the lines that divide and define Fairfax County.

Appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on June 22, the 2021 Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC) has been meeting regularly since late July, but members got their first opportunity on Monday (Sept. 13) to present the district maps they’ve created to determine the county’s leaders for the next decade.

Some members suggested limited changes, moving the Fort Buffalo precinct across the district line from Providence to Mason, for example. Others crafted entirely new districts around Lorton or a swath of Herndon and Chantilly east of Dulles International Airport.

Fairfax County has developed a publicly available mapping tool that allows communities to be realigned with a simple click of a button, but each alteration could have significant implications for what the county will look like in the future.

“These are not just lines on a map,” said Linda Smyth, who now represents Providence District on the RAC and previously represented it on the Board of Supervisors. “It’s about neighborhoods. It’s about people.”

Redistricting Advisory Committee Mason District representative Alis Wang added a Dulles district to her Fairfax County map (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The pressure on this year’s redistricting effort is even higher than usual as the county races to complete a year-long process that has been condensed into roughly five months, thanks largely to coronavirus-related delays in the release of data from the 2020 Census.

The RAC voted on Monday to request a timeline extension after complications in getting adjusted Census data from the Virginia Division of Legislative Services further delayed county staff’s ability to build the online mapping tool that the committee needs to do its work, according to Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw.

Under the schedule originally approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 8, the RAC was expected to finish its work and turn in all the map options they think the board should consider on Friday (Sept. 17).

However, the committee didn’t get the new Census population and demographic data until last Friday (Sept. 10). Prior to that, members had been using old data for training purposes, RAC Chairman Paul Berry says.

“We got the numbers much later in the calendar year than we expected. We would’ve been doing this in the spring if not for the pandemic,” Berry said Monday night. “…The board and Chairman [Jeff] McKay felt it was prudent to give everyone more time to do the work, because we’re all volunteers at the end of the day.”

After a motion put forward by Walkinshaw, the board voted unanimously on Tuesday (Sept. 14) to give the RAC until Sept. 28 to finalize its maps. The initial Sept. 10 deadline for members of the public to submit their own proposed maps has also been extended to this Sunday (Sept. 19).

Board members acknowledged that the new timeline remains less-than-ideal, giving the RAC under two weeks to evaluate its own maps and those from the public, but flexibility is limited by state law, which requires localities to send a redistricting plan to the attorney general for approval by the end of the year. Read More

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