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Board orders review of election processes

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors established a bipartisan panel Tuesday to review the county’s election processes. Board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large) proposed the commission in light of the long lines many voters in the county experienced on Election Day.

Voters waited in line in excess of three hours at some locations. The county had 80.5 percent voter turnout.

“We will never know how many people gave up [because of the long waits], and that is definitely not a good thing,” Bulova said.

One of the potential causes of long waits is that voters seem to prefer the touch-screen voting machines over the paper ballots, some supervisors noted, even though there was a shorter wait for paper ballots. The county is prohibited from buying new touch-screen machines due to state legislation.

Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee) said he saw a variety of issues at polling places, including confusion from some voters who thought that paper ballots were provisional and would not be counted the same day. The paper ballots are scanned and counted on Election Day.

Other issues McKay cited were differences in the number of paper ballot stations set up at different polling places and variation in whether voters waited in line inside or outside.

While supporting the review of election processes, Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) also said that the county should overall be proud of how election staff and volunteers performed.

“I think we should be proud of the fact that we have clean elections. It’s not that way everywhere,” Cook said.

Fire department donates ambulance

The Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department is donating an ambulance to a New York volunteer fire department that lost equipment during Superstorm Sandy.

Flooding caused by the storm surge destroyed the fire trucks and ambulances belonging to the Island Park Volunteer Fire Department in Island Park, N.Y. The 2002 ambulance is the Falls Church department’s reserve ambulance.

“Once we learned that all of Island Park’s fire apparatuses were lost, we reached out to them about donating the ambulance,” said FCVFD Chief Paul Schomburg. “I can’t imagine how helpless we would feel as firefighters and EMTs if we had to function without the basic tools of the trade that we take for granted.”

Schomburg and FCVFD President Ian Weston traveled to Island Park on Monday to deliver the ambulance.

Parents urged to take early childhood education survey

The Virginia Department of Social Services has contracted with James Madison University to conduct a statewide assessment of early childhood care and education needs. The Virginia Early Childhood Needs Assessment Survey aims to help the Virginia Department of Social Services find gaps in preschool and child care services so the state can coordinate resources.

The family survey also is available online in English, Spanish and Arabic at www.jmu.edu/coe/eere/VECNeedsAssessment.shtml.

In addition to the surveys, the assessment includes focus groups at various programs across the state, including Fairfax County. The Office for Children is working with JMU researchers to coordinate these meetings in Fairfax County.

"The information gathered through this assessment will be extremely valuable to us at the local level as we plan future services," said Office for Children Director Anne-Marie Twohie. "We encourage all parents of young children to take a few minutes to answer the survey."