FAIRFAX, Va. – There were long lines at the polls on Election Day with many people waiting for hours to vote, possibly due to confusion over polling places. As a result, one of the region’s largest jurisdictions is taking a closer look at what went wrong.
Fairfax County is setting up a special bipartisan Election Commission to look into what caused the long lines, whether people actually gave up and went home and whether poll workers were trained properly.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, who proposed the commission, says it will also look at absentee voting, both by mail and in-person, and at ways to restructure polling districts to shorten the lines.
The board approved the commission unanimously Tuesday afternoon, but not without some debate.
“I’m concerned that this bipartisan commission, that is 75 percent Democrat, will end up as a discovery tool for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee lawyer,” said supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield.
The county Democrats have a pending lawsuit over the conduct of some poll watchers on Election Day.
There was some discussion of delaying the commission’s work, but Supervisor Jeff McKay, D-Lee District, says they need to get the work done while the problems discovered on Nov. 6 are still fresh.
Fairfax County had an 80.5 percent voter turnout on Election Day, exceeding the turnout in 2008.
The commission, which is supposed to begin work in January, will be chaired by former Board Chairman Kate Hanley, a Democrat, and former Drainsville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn, a Republican.
Each sitting supervisor will appoint one commission member with Bulova appointing two.
One issue they can not look into is buying new voting machines. There is a state law against that.
But Herrity, who serves on a state committee on local government mandates, says the state should also take another look at that law.
The commission is expected to make recommendations by May.