In Virginia, we have a elections every year. This year, we even have three including a special election for school board on Aug. 29 and then elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and State Delegate on Nov. 7.
Turnout in our state and local elections plummets. In my experience, a large reason is that voting takes precious time away from jobs and families and given Northern Virginia traffic, time is at a premium.
That's why I have been encouraging everyone to vote by mail. Most people do not realize how easy it is and most people also do not realize they are even eligible. If you work outside Fairfax County, if you cannot stand in line for long periods, are an out-of-town college student, on vacation or leaving the county for 10 minutes on Election Day, a first responder, or have a commute and workday longer than 11 hours, you can vote early by mail.
Last year, over 120,000 Fairfax County citizens either voted early in-person or voted by mail. There is no reason that should not happen every year and in larger numbers.
While I fully support no excuse early voting, that has yet to pass in Richmond for political reasons. But there are things that our local government here in Fairfax County could do to make voting early easier.
First, I developed a website that allows voters to submit applications to vote early electronically to the Fairfax County Registrar. It takes about two minutes to complete online. You can use it at www.scottsurovell/votebymail. Fairfax County could and should embed a similar tool on the official Fairfax County voting website.
Next, we should open satellite early voting locations like the one at the Mt. Vernon and Franconia Government Centers for more days and longer hours.
We should also have more satellite voting locations. Every person getting on the Metro at Franconia-Springfield, South Van Dorn Street, or Huntington Metro can vote early. There should be early voting stations there. The South County Government Center should have a voting location. The Lorton Library needs to be open more days and longer.
Lastly, Fairfax County should provide postage prepaid envelopes for voters to return their ballots. You would be shocked how many people — especially Millennials — do not have stamps at home nowadays.
Facilitating more early voting will require more election officers and thus more money, but shorter lines and fewer disruptions save all of us time on Election Day and encourages more participation in our democracy. Our community is a great place to live because we have such engaged citizens. Encouraging democratic participation will only make it better.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback. It is an honor to serve as your state senator.