The sudden death of one candidate and the deadline-beating arrival of their replacement has nullified over 1,000 absentee ballots in Fairfax County’s Providence District Supervisor’s race, which spurred an unprecedented need to redistribute and receive new absentee ballots by election day next Tuesday.
Roughly 1,300 new ballots were sent out Oct. 16 and 17 to accommodate the new Republican candidate, Eric Anthony Jones, on the ballot, Fairfax County’s general registrar Gary Scott told the News-Press. Providence District voters — which constitutes the western portion of the greater Falls Church area, including Merrifield, as well as parts of Vienna, Fairfax and Tysons Corner — were notified about the possibility of a new candidate when they received their absentee ballots 45 days prior to the election on Sept. 20, a measure established in federal and state law by the National Voter Registration Act in 1993.
The now-negated absentee ballots didn’t have former Republican candidate Paul Bolon listed when they were mailed due to Bolon’s unexpected death following a campaign event in early August. Fairfax County’s Republic Committee had been soliciting Jones to join the race after Bolon’s death, according to its chairman Tim Hannigan. Jones informed the committee of his official interest on Oct. 8, three days prior to the Oct. 11 filing deadline for a replacement candidate.
“We felt confident in [Jones] coming in. [Bolon] did a lot of groundwork by campaigning in the area, and a lot of people were very disappointed when he died and we didn’t have anyone. [Jones] is stepping in on a lot of good work that [Bolon] did.” Hannigan told the News-Press.
Jones is a retired foreign service officer who specializes in economic issues. He is running against Democratic party candidate Dalia Palchik, who currently serves as the Providence District’s representative on Fairfax County Public School’s School Board.
The topic that appears to be the most contentious during the campaign are the candidates’ differing opinions of One Fairfax, a “joint social and racial equity policy of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and School Board… that all residents deserve an equitable opportunity to succeed — regardless of their race, color, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, disability, income or where they live,” according to the county’s website.
Hannigan believes the Republican message that criticizes the Board of Supervisors and the School Board’s overstepping with One Fairfax is resonating in a district that leans Democratic. A particular issue of the policy he cited is the redrawing of school boundaries in order to balance out the socio-economic and racial makeup of different parts of the county. Hannigan also criticized the county police’s current stance on not working with the Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency, which he said harms legal immigrants most of all.
Luke Vaughn, a consultant to Palchik’s campaign, told the News-Press that Jones’ late arrival hasn’t affected the strategy or scope of Palchik’s outreach. Vaughn added that Palchik is taking a different tact in her campaign, saying, “The only name out of [Palchik’s] mouth is her own” and she is focusing on a positive message that talks about her vision for Providence District, which includes looking for solutions to affordable housing problems and making Fairfax County a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Scott, the county’s general registrar, commented that new absentee ballots cannot be accepted at a voter’s designated polling location. For those that are concerned about the lag time between receiving and re-mailing their new absentee ballots, Scott advised that they deliver them directly to the county’s Office of Elections, located at 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 323, Fairfax, prior to 7 p.m. closing of the polls this Tuesday, Nov. 5.