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Votes

Preparing a Special Election in 19 Days

Officials in the 33rd State Senate District are prepared as possible for the Jan. 31 election.

The 17-year-olds living in the 33rd State Senate Legislative District who turn 18 on or before Nov. 7 can cast their votes for the first time. Given they register in time, they will be able to take part in the process, which will determine their representative in the Virginia State Senate.

The General Registrar in Fairfax County, Jackie Harris, said the county is doing a special outreach to the area’s high schools in order to encourage the students to register and vote in this election.

The writ for the Jan. 31 election was issued Jan. 12, which means the people involved in the process have 19 days to prepare and execute an election. Harris said she believed the Fairfax County polling places would be adequately staffed, given that nine Fairfax precincts fall into the 33rd Senatorial district and she can use volunteers from other Fairfax County precincts to fill in any vacancies. She said Fairfax County will train its election officers the Saturday before the election. The county will use very experienced officers, she said.

Harris’s counterpart in Loudoun County, Judy Brown, has to prepare 39 precincts for the election. “We trained our chiefs and assistant chiefs on Monday [Jan. 9] to make sure they are on track,” said Brown. Brown also said there will be a sufficient number of volunteers to work the polling places, because she can pull people from the western part of Loudoun County, which is not in the 33rd District.

Brown said everything that could be done so far has been done. The ballots are ready to be printed, but the registrars in the two counties have to wait to find out what names to put on them. That information will be available Wednesday morning, Jan. 18. The Republican party held a canvass Monday, which featured four vying for the nod. Supervisor Mick Station (R-Sugarland Run) garnered the most votes, with 1,539. “Everyone is on standby,” said Brown.

“THE PROBLEM we have,” said Brown, “is we don’t know when the ballots are going be here.” She said once the information on the candidates is sent to the State Board of Elections, it is up to that body to determine what the ballot will look like. For example, the State Board of Elections will decide which candidate’s name will go first on the ballot. There will also be a need to check the paperwork of any possible Independent candidates who may file to run for the Senate seat. Once that information is sent back to her, she will send the information on to the printer, who will then ship enough ballots for the absentee voters overnight. The rest of the ballots will arrive in time for the election. “I can’t see us seeing the ballots before Friday [Jan. 20],” said Brown.

Even without the knowledge of when the ballots will be in their hands, the registrar offices in both counties have determined the voter deadlines. New residents to the district are encouraged to update their voter registration information so they can vote in this election. Fairfax County voters must register by 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 24. Applications for absentee voting by mail must be received in the registrar’s office by 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26. Absentee voting in person can be done at the Registrar’s office Thursday, Jan. 19 through Friday, Jan. 27, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 28 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

In Loudoun County, the voters must register by 5 p.m., Tuesday Jan. 24. Applications for absentee voters by mail must be received by 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 26. Absentee voting in person may be done during the regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 28, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

VOTERS WILL use the Accuvote optical scan machines. They will receive their ballots, shade in the candidate they are voting for and run the ballot into the machine to be scanned. Voters will cast their votes in the same polling locations as they do in a general election. Schools will be open on that day, but have been contacted to provide a space and voter parking for the election.

Both Brown and Harris are predicting around a 20 percent turnout for the special election, which may increase or decrease depending on the weather. Harris added that the candidates themselves will regulate voter turnout by how well they motivate the residents to vote. Currently, there are around 145,000 registered voters in the 33rd Senate District. Karen Pearson, the Loudoun County Electoral Board chairman predicts Loudoun will spend $17,000 just for its election officials. Three election officials are required to be at each polling place, 39 precincts plus one location for the absentee voting. The chiefs are paid $200, assistant chiefs $125 and officers $100. The $17,000 does not include the cost of printing ballots, using the machines, mileage and supplies, said Pearson.