Election officials at West Springfield High School wait to process voters. (From left) Chea Belfort of Burke, Pradeep Chaturvedi of Springfield, Jeanette Hantke of West Springfield, Vivina McVay of Burke, Chris Bolognese of Springfield and Nour Nourey of Alexandria.
Photo by Tim Peterson.
When it comes to voting, paper is the past, the present and the future. The assistant chief election officer at Robinson Secondary school James Emery Jr. of Fairfax said paper is too valuable as a voting record to abandon.
“It’s so there’s a verifiable means to do a recount,” he said. “You can run it all through the machines again. There's a paper trail: It's in the box, saved and archived.”
The touch-screen voting machines available in previous years made recounting much more difficult. And trying to facilitate voting with both options simultaneously led to confusion for some citizens, which slowed down the entire process.
This year, paper is king across Virginia.
“They feel like for accountability purposes that's the way to go,” said Chief Election Officer at Robinson Teri Ayres of Fairfax.
Working with only paper ballots requires a little more labor on the part of the election staff to prepare and make sure no one gets a double ballot. But still, she said, “We've seen lines go a little bit faster.”
Chief Election Officers Bill Patterson at West Springfield High School and Ravi Udeshi at Centreville High School experienced similar levels of smooth operation thanks to the single voting option.
“The ballot box is new, it’s flawless,” said Patterson, a Springfield resident. “Things have been pretty smooth, generally.”
Ayres said despite sticking with paper ballots, a new counting machine is helping improve efficiency this year. The DS200 Digital Scan Voting Systems box doesn’t just make a head count like previous machines; it actually creates a digital image of both sides of the ballot, and counts that.
None of the three locations’ officials experienced many voters having trouble complying with the new identification legislation. “I think the majority of people were informed, but some just weren't sure what the law stated,” said Patterson.
Fairfax County released its unofficial returns data after the polls closed. Official returns won’t be available until later in the month. But according to the unofficial report, Braddock district had a 46 percent turnout, including 32,526 in-person votes and 2,975 absentees; Lee district saw 41.4 percent, with 25,815 in-person and 2,046 absentee; while Springfield notched 47.8 percent with 35,797 in-person votes and 3,659 absentees.
The county swung hard for incumbent democrat Senator Mark Warner, with (again the unofficial report from Fairfax County) 175,687 votes to republican challenger Ed Gillespie’s 122,790 and libertarian Robert C Sarvis’ 6,652.