In-person absentee voting begins in Virginia, voters weigh in on governor, legislative races

FAIRFAX, Va. — You have a long commute. You’re pregnant. You have religious obligations. You’ll be out of town. You’ll be out of the country. You’re in jail awaiting trial.

Those are some of the 20 official reasons Virginians may choose to vote in-person absentee, which started on Friday.

At the Fairfax County Government Center, Frank Anderson was first in line, with his two young children tagging along.

“I think voting is very important,” he said. “I take voting rights very seriously. I want to show them (his children) and I want to show everybody how easy it is to vote early, in-person absentee, in Fairfax County, Virginia.”

Anderson is also a Democratic Party Committeeman in Fairfax County.

Activists from the Republican and Democratic parties manned tables filled with sample ballots, candidate comparisons and copies of the United States Constitution.

Fairfax County GOP volunteer Nona Faber said it’s an important job.

“We are in Fairfax County, and we’ve got stiff competition. So we like to be present,” Faber said.

About 200 feet away, Democratic Party Volunteer Christopher Schaffer hoped to put a few more ballots in the box with some grass roots education.

“We’ll be letting people know that they might be eligible to vote. A lot of people come here on (other) business, and don’t know that they can vote absentee today,” Schaffer said.

As for doing so much work for so few votes: “It’s a small hunk, but it’s a hunk that’s getting bigger and bigger every year. So it is an important demographic,” said Schaffer of in-person absentee voters.

Back inside the Office of Elections, Fairfax County General Registrar Cameron Sasnett said that Virginia’s “off-off” year election usually results in a turnout of about 50 percent.

“We’re actually hoping that we might be a little bit higher than that this year. We did have record turnout last year here in Fairfax — almost 83 percent,” Sasnett said.

Sasnett believes that Virginia’s high-profile race for governor will help drive voters to the polls this fall.

In addition to the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are up for grabs — among them 16 contested races in Northern Virginia. And Fairfax County voters will vote on a school bond referendum.

Sasnett is no fan of the term “off-off’ year. He said that Virginia’s unusual voting cycle (New Jersey is the only other state choosing its governor this November) is a good thing for those running.

“It gives the candidates a much better opportunity to get their message directly to the voters. It’s not lost in the bigger federal elections.”

From a partisan standpoint, Schaffer agrees.

“It does allow us to capitalize on what happened last year — the momentum that the Democrats have made. We (Virginia Democrats) don’t have two years to lose that momentum. Right now it’s what we have, so we make the best of it.”

In-person absentee voting continues through Nov. 3. Find detailed information on absentee voting from the Fairfax County registrar and at the Virginia Department of Elections site.

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