Although Election Day is still more than six weeks away, Fairfax County residents can start casting their ballots when early voting begins tomorrow (Friday).

The county will have three sites open for voting in the Nov. 2 general election for Virginia’s governor and other state offices: the Fairfax County Government Center, the Mount Vernon Governmental Center, and the North County Governmental Center.

The county anticipates a turnout of about 50% for this year’s general election, according to county spokesperson Brian Worthy. But the Office of Elections is prepared for a turnout of 75%.

In the last governor’s race in 2017, turnout stood at around 56% when Gov. Ralph Northam — who cannot seek re-election due to term limits — ran against Republican nominee Ed Gillespie and Libertarian Party candidate Clifford Hyra.

Worthy tells FFXnow that the county is now adept at running elections during the pandemic.

“We have been holding elections since the pandemic and there is no significant impact on our operations at this point,” he said.

The Ballot

Terry McAullife (D) and Glenn Youngkin (R) are running to succeed Northam as governor, while Hala Ayala (D) and Winsome Sears (R) are running for lieutenant governor. Republican Jason Miyares is challenging incumbent Mark Herring, who is a Democrat, for attorney general.

All 100 House of Delegates seats are also up for grabs, with Democrats seeking to maintain a majority in the legislative chamber for the first time since 1999. Sample ballots for each of the Fairfax County races can be found on the Office of Elections website.

Finally, the ballot includes a bond question concerning $360 million in capital improvement bonds for Fairfax County Public Schools.

How to Vote

The Fairfax County Government Center will be open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while the other sites will be open from noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays. All sites will be open on Saturday, Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All registered Fairfax County voters can vote early. The last day of early voting is Oct. 30.

This year, county officials are encouraging residents to vote early using an electronic ballot-marketing machine called an ExpressVote.

The system allows voters to use the machine’s touchscreen instead of filling out a ballot by hand. Ballots are then printed by the machine, a system that county officials say will prevent voters from missing any races on the ballot or accidentally voting for more than one candidate per office.

An additional 13 early voting locations will open up on Thursday, Oct. 21. Those sites will operate from noon to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Weekend hours will be added later: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 23 and 30, and from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 24.

Voters must bring identification when they vote, though a photo ID like a driver’s license is no longer required. Accepted forms include a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or another government document with the voter’s name and address.

Voting by mail, an option now open to all registered voters, will also kick off tomorrow. Requests to receive a mail-in ballot must be received by Oct. 22.

Masks are required for voters and poll workers at polling places, according to Worthy. Voters who do not wear masks will be able to vote outside.

“Everyone will be given the opportunity to vote,” he said.

The county is still looking for bilingual election offices who speak Korean or Vietnamese in addition to include. Bilingual speakers can apply online to become election officers until Oct. 8.

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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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