Number one question these days is “how do I vote?” Not “should I vote” or “who ya gonna vote for,” but “how and where” can I vote? In Fairfax County, absentee in-person voting, now also known as early voting, begins tomorrow at the Office of Elections at the main Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax (12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax 22035). Hours are 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Tomorrow also is the first absentee ballot mailout for voters who applied, by mail or on-line, for an absentee ballot. Because of the enormous number of requests, ballots will be mailed in batches so, if you already applied for a ballot, it may take a few days for the Office of Elections to catch up.
Early voting at satellite locations will begin on Wednesday, Oct. 14, and continue through Saturday, Oct. 31. Weekday hours are 1 – 7 p.m.; satellite locations are open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The closest satellite locations for Mason District voters are the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale, and the Thomas Jefferson Library, 7415 Arlington Boulevard (Route 50) in Falls Church. However, Fairfax County voters may cast an in-person absentee ballot at any satellite voting site in the county during those hours of operation. If you decide to vote in person on Nov. 3, Election Day, you must do so at the regular polling place that serves your residential address.
When the Virginia General Assembly approved the use of ballot drop boxes at the end of August, it may have been too little, too late. The approved legislation gave very little guidance for usage, security, or placement, and left no time to order the several hundred heavy duty metal boxes that would be required to accommodate Fairfax County voters. Electoral Boards are loath to spend taxpayer dollars on equipment that has not been authorized, and the General Assembly’s approval relates only to this year’s Nov. 3 election, so the move seems temporary at best. According to information available at this time, Fairfax County will utilize collapsible plastic boxes at the satellite voting locations, during operating hours only, or at each precinct polling location on Election Day. The boxes will be indoors, not curbside, and each voter will have to deposit his/her own ballot into the box. The boxes will be emptied every day by authorized election workers, with ballots taken to the Office of Elections for safekeeping. While the ballot drop box system may alleviate concerns about using the United States Postal Service to return ballots, it will not be as easy as dropping an envelope into a drive-thru postal box, as some voters assumed.
Whichever way you decide to vote — in-person absentee, by drop box, by mail, or in person on Nov. 3, the important thing is to VOTE. The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 13; the last day to apply to receive an absentee ballot by mail, fax, and online is Friday, Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. If you plan to vote by mail, please allow plenty of time for the Post Office to deliver your cast ballot.
And please, vote only once. Each vote counts, but it only counts once!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]