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With about two weeks left before the election, the Fairfax County Government Center is playing host to a number of voters who often wait in line during their lunch break to cast in-person absentee ballots early.

According to county officials, the lunch time drop-ins have become an autumn standard this year, creating a steady influx of visitors.

However, polls could be more crowded Nov. 6 than during the 2008 presidential election, if absentee numbers are any indication. According to the Fairfax County Office of Elections, fewer voters have applied for absentee ballots this year 42,541—compared to the number that cast votes through absentee ballots in 2008—107,145.

However, the total number of registered voters is at an all-time high, said Fairfax County Office of Elections General Registrar Cameron Quinn. During the 2008 election, 524,034 voters, a 78.7 percent turnout, cast ballots. This year’s voter registration includes 734,089 voters, compared to 665,674 in 2008.

If turnout this year is consistant with that of 2008, as many as 536,000 (subtracting those who applied for absentee ballots) could visit polls Nov. 6.

“You can say it’s the highest number [of registered voters] ever because Fairfax County keeps growing. So, each year is the highest ever,” Quinn said. “To vote in-person absentee, one must qualify to vote absentee. Any registered voter can show up on Election Day but only those qualified can vote in advance. Otherwise the process is generally the same.”

According to the Virginia State Board of Elections, in-person absentee voters must submit an absentee application before casting a ballot. Like those visiting the polls on Election Day, in-person absentee voters must also provide identification. In Fairfax County, in-person absentee voters can cast ballots at the County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, or at one of the seven county government satellite locations. Frequently asked questions are answered at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/faq_absvoting.htm.

Absentee ballot applications must be postmarked by 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

City of Fairfax General Registrar Kevin Linehan said he is seeing about the same level of absentee voters this year as in the 2008 presidential election, but added that there has been a shift in how people choose to vote absentee.

“What I think is interesting is we are right on track with where we were four years ago,” Linehan said. “I’ve mailed out less paper [ballots] this year than I did four years ago, but I’ve had more people come in than four years ago.”

As of Oct. 19, Linehan said 350 of the about 14,000 registered voters had visited for in-person absentee voting, 40 of who came in Friday. In-person absentee voting began Sept. 21 and ends Nov. 3.

Before visiting the city’s in-person absentee center, residents should make sure they know whether they fall within the county or city limits.

“I bet half my day is telling people they need to go to the county; they live in the county,” Linehan said. “Some people actually argue with me about where they live. I’m like ‘Really?’”

In-person absentee votes for city residents can be cast at the Sisson House on the City Hall campus, 10455 Armstrong Street, Fairfax.

Learn more about voting in Fairfax County at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/ or by visiting the State Board of Elections at www.sbe.virginia.gov.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com