Virginia voters turned out big time for the state’s first day of early voting Friday.
Lines of voters stretched hundreds deep in Northern Virginia and other parts of the state. Friday marked the first day of early voting across the commonwealth. In past presidential elections, Virginia voters needed a reason to cast an early ballot. This year, however, anyone can vote early.
In Fairfax County, election workers were scrambling to open an additional voting room at the county government center where a line of hundreds of voters, spaced six feet apart, stretched down the block. Long lines were also evident in other northern Virginia locations, where Democrats outnumber Republicans.
On the first day of early voting, lines at the Fairfax County Government Center are out the door (but don’t worry, there are many more days left to vote early and more locations will open in October). #Election2020 pic.twitter.com/HaR06mAYO5
— Fairfax County Government 😷 (@fairfaxcounty) September 18, 2020
By mid-afternoon Friday, the line at the Fairfax government center still stretched hundreds of people long, and voters reported the overall wait at nearly four hours. A few came prepared with lawn chairs, though they said the line moved too quickly to sit for any length of time.
At the Courthouse Plaza early voting site in neighboring Arlington County, nearly as many people voted in the first hour of early voting Friday as voted on the entire first day of early voting in 2016.
Four years ago, 279 Arlington voters cast ballots on the first day of early voting. This year, the county said 200 voters had cast early ballots by 9 a.m. Friday and 600 people had voted by noon.
The pandemic has apparently not stifled people’s desire to make sure their vote gets counted.
“We planned for recognizing the restrictions of COVID for it to be a little larger than usual, but it’s just been enormous, and it is very exciting to see all these people out here to vote on the first day,” Fairfax Electoral Board Secretary Kate Hanley said.
In an interview with WTOP around noon Friday, Hanley said she didn’t know exactly how many voters had cast early ballots but said, “I know that the line has about 300 people in it, and people are staying.”
- Sign up for WTOP’s elections newsletter
- DC voter guide
- Maryland voter guide
- Virginia voter guide
- Presidential Election News
- Congressional Election News
- Local Politics and Elections News
Hanley noted that voters are making sure to wear masks and social distance, which has increased the length of the lines.
“But it’s just an amazing turnout,” Hanley said. “People want to be sure that they can see their vote ballot cast on the machine. … And we’re hoping that we can help them do it as fast as we can, as fast as we can go, which is not hugely fast, but we want people to be safe,” she said.
Hanley added, “It is really incredibly exciting here to see the number of people that have turned out.”
WTOP reporter Mike Murillo said he spoke to several people who said that they don’t need to wait and vote, their mind is made up and they want to cast their ballot.
Marcus Simon, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, said the wait to vote at the Fairfax County Government Center on Friday afternoon was 4.5 hours.
4.5 hours to vote in person absentee at the Fairfax County Government Center and people are glad to do it. Found the drop box inside and guarded by and election officer pic.twitter.com/cTghM4vUmb
— Marcus Simon (@marcussimon) September 18, 2020
Jennifer Shanahan said that the crowd was positive and ready to cast their ballots in Fairfax County on Friday.
“It’s so inspiring! Everyone is so patient, friendly, and sharing stories of past elections. They’re stunned at how many are here! Everyone is anxious to make sure their vote counts!! It feels hopeful here,” Shanahan said.
In Alexandria on Friday afternoon, dozens of people had queued up outside the office on Royal Street for early voting.
Voters in line were all ages and Alexandria has had 639 vote as of 2 p.m., according to WTOP’s Colleen Kelleher.