Harold Mueller was looking for a Republican sample ballot. A friend of his from Canada didn't understand the American electoral system and thought that voters showed up and identified themselves with a particular party.
Mueller had picked up a Democratic ballot in front of his polling place, the Oak-Marr Rec Center, but he couldn't find a Republican ballot as well. "I want to show him, you can pick this guy for this race and this guy for this race," Mueller said.
Mueller was part of a steady stream of voters at Oak-Marr early on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8. "It's been normal or above," said Susan Daniels, chief election officer at Oak-Marr.
In 2001, the last gubernatorial election year, 46.9 percent of registered voters in Fairfax County cast votes. During last year's hotly contested presidential election, turnout hit 73.8 percent, an unusually high number.
Turnout hadn't compared to last year's presidential election when voters were lined up into the parking lot at roughly the same time of day. The line hadn't really gotten over 15 people at a time, Daniels said.
Turnout at Nottoway Park had also been fairly good, said Judy Thurston, assistant chief election officer. At 9:15 a.m., 681 people had voted, she said. "If it stays at this rate, I think we'll get up over 50 percent," she said.
A FEW voters thought even that number was too low. "I happen to think that being a citizen in the U.S. brings some responsibility," said Mark Anderson after leaving Nottoway.
Anderson spent 20 years in the military, and said that experience crystallized his reasons for voting. Having spent time in other countries which do not have as open a system made him better appreciate the value of voting.
His wife, Kristin Anderson agreed. "It's something that we value because of our experiences living overseas," she said.
At the Vienna Community Center, Kiki Vargas had another reason for voting. "My husband is not a citizen, so I feel like I have to speak for both of us," she said.
Vargas brought her son Micah, 2, to see democracy in action. "I think it's also good for him to see, that's what we do," Vargas said.
The Community Center also had steady turnout, said Audrey Sullivan of the Fairfax County Electoral Board. Sullivan works with 13 precincts, floating between them and ensuring that voting goes smoothly at all of them and troubleshooting problems. "Several of my places had a line waiting for the doors to open," Sullivan said.
Of the 12 she had visited in the morning, she said she'd seen steady turnout at all of them. "It's been slower than this many a year," she said.
Westbriar also had steady turnout said Brian Treadwell, chief of that precinct. "Since six o'clock, it's been a steady flow," he said. "I was pleasantly surprised."
As of about 10:40 a.m., 675 people had voted at Westbriar — about 21 percent of the precinct.
Treadwell said that voting tends to drop off later in the day, he said. Many area residents fear getting caught in traffic and not making it to the polling places before they close, so they tend to come earlier. "The people who really care, they don't wait until the last minute," he said.