Alexandria voters will head to the polls on July 17 for a special election to fill a vacant seat on City Council, which was vacated by the departure of former Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald on May 8. All of the city’s precincts will be open for 13 hours for the July election from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"We’re expecting anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 votes," said Registrar Tom Parkins. "Next week will be a long week because we’ll be training election officials."
Parkins noted that the most recent example of a special election in Alexandria was in 1996, when David Speck won a seat on the City Council. That election had an 11-percent participation rate, with 6,240 voters casting a ballot in an April election. According to the registrar, the timing of this year’s special election might also have an influence on the number of voters who cast a ballot.
"The summertime nature of this election creates a sense of unpredictability," said Parkins. "We’re not exactly sure how many people will show up to vote in the middle of July."
Absentee ballots have been available since June 25, and the prevalence of summertime vacations may increase their numbers and significance. Party officials say that meeting their voting goals will require participation from voters who may be out of town. According to the deadlines set for the special election, the registrar’s office must receive all mailed absentee ballots by the close of business on July 10.
"Both Democrats and Republicans will be challenged to get their votes out," said Bernie Schultz, a former Republican candidate who is supporting Bill Cleveland in the special election. "Because a lot of people take summer vacations, absentee ballots will be crucial in this election."
Those who wish to cast an absentee ballot in person may do so in the registrar’s office at 123 North Royal Street. Weekday hours for the in-person absentee balloting are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday hours for July 7 and July 14 have been extended 8 to 5 p.m. On July 9, 10 and 11, the registrar’s office will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for in person absentee balloting as election officials make their final preparation for Election Day.
"We know a lot of people will be taking vacations, and we want their votes," said Todd Ruopp, who is managing Democrat Justin Wilson’s campaign for City Council. "So absentee ballots will be very important in this election."