From left Robinson Secondary School Assistant Chief Election Officer Teri Ayers and Chief Election Officer James Emery Jr. welcome voters.
Photo by Tim Peterson
By 4:15 p.m., the precinct voting station at Robinson Secondary School had already processed 1,432 voters out of those 4,458 registered. Only a few hours from the polls closing, they were well on their way to finishing with 1600-1800, according to Assistant Chief Election Officer and Fairfax resident Teri Ayers.
This was Ayers’ third straight year working at the polling station. After some time away from the Fairfax area, she returned and immediately sought out opportunities to get involved with the community. "After doing it the first time," she said, "it’s just a really nice way to connect with people and see what’s going on."
On Tuesday, Ayers, Chief Election Officer James Emery Jr. and their team kept the steady queue of a slightly larger than expected turnout moving. Thanks to a few procedural enhancements, they were able to make sure no more than five to ten people were waiting in line throughout most of the day.
The first change from previous polling was the sharing of registration laptop duties between two people instead of one. Working in pairs, "one can retrieve the ID and verify what the voter is stating," Ayers said. "Then the one actually on the laptop can find the voter in the registration book." The Fairfax County Election Board suggested the change, though no precinct was required to comply with it.
A second improvement in the name of efficiency was the phasing out of touch-screen voting mechanisms in favor of electronic scan ballots that still must be filled out by hand. Surprisingly, it’s the touch screens that represent "antiquated technology," according to Seth Stark, Chair of the Fairfax County Election Board. While newer hardware that more accurately scans ballots marked with pen is actually "the wave of the future." "Just don’t try to use lipstick," said Carol Ann Coryell, Former Fairfax County Election Board Secretary.
Regardless of the technology, Ayers and Emery observed hardly any bumps or challenges over the course of the day. "Everything has been pretty smooth," Ayers said. "If anything comes up, a process is in place to handle it."
The calm, steady tempo afforded the volunteers opportunities to reflect on their roles. "I find it extremely gratifying to be here," Ayers said, "to be part of the process."
"Our main purpose is to make sure everybody is able to vote," she continued, "It’s a long day for us, we have to constantly be on our feet, ready to respond to voter questions, concerns, whatever comes up. But we’re a part of something -- we make everything run smoothly, so at the end of the night we can get out the results."