Alexandrians came out to vote in record numbers on Tuesday and cast their ballots overwhelmingly Democratic. “If you look at active registered voters, we had an 80 percent voter participation in this election,” said Tom Parkins, the city’s voter registrar. The state electoral board calculates turn-out by number of voters and total number of registered voters. In Alexandria, there are 15,000 inactive voters on the roles.
“In the last presidential election, the turn-out was at 77 percent so we did not see a dramatic difference this year. It’s hard to improve on the kind of numbers of voters that the city has, though. The city traditionally has an extremely high participation rate in national elections,” Parkins said.
The 61,113 people who cast ballots voted for U.S. Sen. John Kerry by a margin of 67 percent to 32 percent. The state, on the other hand, voted for President George W. Bush by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.
Democrats were optimistic that Kerry might take Virginia when they saw the early exit polls. “We just learned that exit polls aren’t always right,” said Kerry Donley, the former mayor of Alexandria and the chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party. “There were some bright lights in the state for Democrats, though. We successfully defended three Congressional seats and ran a competitive race in Virginia Beach. In Northern Virginia, we did extremely well in Arlington and Alexandria, as predicted, carried Fairfax County and did better than expected in Prince William and Loudoun counties. Now we know what we need to do to get ready for the gubernatorial election next year.
“Northern Virginia is very urban and heavily Democratic. It is not at all like the rest of the state and that is a problem for both parties. We have already begun to look forward to 2005,” Donley said.
“We really did pretty well in Virginia, all things considered,” said Del. Brian Moran (D-46).
Incumbent U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) won Alexandria easily. He beat his Republican challenger, Lisa Marie Cheney, by a margin of 62 percent to 35 percent. “The Alexandria Democratic Committee worked very hard for me and for John Kerry and I appreciate their efforts very much,” Moran said.
DESPITE THE HIGH VOTER turn-out, there were few problems at the polls. “Everything went really well in Alexandria and there were no surprises,” Parkins said. “We had some administrative issues because so many people decided to vote early this year but that was not a huge issue. It did result in some people waiting as long as two hours to vote.
“Also, we had one minor technical problem that was compounded by human error and resulted in some voting delay at William Ramsay. Over all, voting with eSlate went very smoothly,” Parkins said.
Police agreed that things went smoothly. “We received about a dozen calls, mostly about traffic and parking problems at the polls,” said Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the Alexandria Police Department. “We had a couple of disorderly conduct reports and one destruction of property report but nothing that required any major police intervention.”
There was one incident of an argument between two voters. “A Bush supporter and a Kerry supporter got into a shouting match at Beatley Library but the election officials there were able to settle the dispute and we did not need to call police,” Parkins said.
ABSENTEE VOTING in Alexandria was much higher than ever before. Nearly 7,000 people voted by absentee ballot this election while just over 4,000 did so in 2000. Also, more provisional ballots were cast than ever before, “by a mile,” Parkins said.
This year, 200 provisional ballots were cast, while in 2000, only 36 provisional ballots were considered.
“Provisional ballots are the result of eligibility issues,” Parkins said. “For example, if a voter believes he or she registered at the Department of Motor Vehicles and the application somehow didn’t get to us, we have to look at that. Each provisional ballot will be considered and evaluated individually. We should have a number of provisional ballots that are going to be counted by later this week.”
One issue, which arose in some states, is whether to count so-called “ghost” votes. What happens if a voter votes by absentee ballot and dies before the election?
“In Virginia, that vote will count,” Parkins said. “Each state’s electoral board gets to decide.”