After a historic volume of early voting due to the pandemic, the rest of the D.C. area’s voters celebrated Election Day the traditional way — with some lining up before sunrise.
Polls have closed in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and the combination of early and day-of voting made it a decidedly healthy day for democracy in some portions of the D.C. area …
- In Loudoun County, over 75% of its 282,263 registered voters had cast a ballot as of 4 p.m. (Nearly 55% had voted early.)
- In Alexandria, 76% of its active voters had cast ballots as of 4 p.m. Turnout had already topped 2016’s by 4%.
- In Fairfax County, over 70% of its 787,000 registered voters had cast a ballot as of 4 p.m. (51% had voted early.)
- In Arlington County, about 73% of voters had cast their ballots — 13% in person as of 4:30 p.m. (63% had voted early.)
One indication of how important this year’s election is: The National Cathedral re-opened for the first time since the pandemic began, for an all-day prayer vigil.
“There is a lot of people who are carrying around a lot of hurt and anxiety, and we wanted to offer a place where people could come and leave it here,” said spokesman Kevin Eckstrom.
Parishioners are required to wear a mask, socially distance and leave any political attire or signs at home.
The cathedral is open until 9 p.m. Tuesday and 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday.
D.C. election officials say that based on the 2016 turnout, 85% of votes had already been received.
That’s probably why the Guy Mason Recreation Center in Glover Park wasn’t too busy Tuesday afternoon. “There was not one person in front of me. There was no line at all,” said one voter, Lauren. “There’s lots of staff. Everyone’s super helpful and energized.”
In Southwest D.C., Emma P. Ward she had already voted but wanted to see the excitement at her local polling place. A District resident since 1959, Ward said she has not been outside much because of coronavirus.
“I’m just so excited to be out here today in this beautiful sunshine,” Ward said. “I came out so I can rejoice in what I’ve already done. I have a big smile on my face. I’m feeling it today.”
Hear more from Ward below:
World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit started by chef Jose Andres, had some of its mobile kitchens out around D.C. to feed voters standing in line.
The lighter turnout was apparent in Arlington’s Hume neighborhood, where a typically long afternoon line was nowhere to be seen. One voter, Robin, had brought a sandwich in case she’d have to wait.
“I couldn’t believe how easy this was,” she said. “You walk in, ‘here’s your form,’ bingo bango — five-minute process.”
Earlier, there were some issues in Prince William County with ballot machines at Tyler Elementary School in Gainesville and Battlefield High School in Haymarket. Keith Scarborough, the county’s Board of Elections secretary, said the issue might have been due to a barcode printing error. Once a new batch of ballots were put into use, the machines no longer had a problem.
Any unscanned ballots that can’t be read will instead be hand-counted.
Also in Prince William, a power outage affected over 300 customers in Woodbridge. But a Dominion Energy spokeswoman told WTOP it had not affected voting at Belmont Elementary School.
And a transformer fire forced one Fairfax County polling site — Kent Gardens Elementary School in McLean — to run off battery power.
In Loudoun County’s South Riding, just before 8 a.m., WTOP’s Neal Augenstein reported that the flow of voters into Liberty Elementary School had slowed to a trickle. Poll officials said that the number of early-morning voters was about the same as in past years, but that the total is well above average when factoring in the number of people who voted before Election Day.
In nearby Chantilly, Marianne Ihde said she made up her mind well in advance, but “never in my life have I thought this much about voting … how and where and when and in what form, so I’m just really relieved that I could finally fill in that circle.”
And in Ashburn, Stephen Malone said workers at his polling site, Broad Run High School, were “efficient, organized and very smooth.”
Over half of all eligible Marylanders had voted before Election Day.
According to a source with the state’s board of elections, speaking on background, there are just over 4.1 million eligible voters in the state, and by Monday, over 2.3 million ballots had already been received, which is about 57%.
Because of the pandemic, Maryland provided mail-in ballots to residents who requested them. But Tuesday afternoon, state Attorney General Brian Frosh noted that over 300,000 requested mail-in ballots had not yet been returned.
And there were long waits in Calvert County, where there were five voting centers — and only one early voting center.
— Kristi King (@kingWTOP) November 3, 2020
Sunderland resident Travis Cook echoed the sentiments of most — if not all — voters on Nov. 3: “I’m a little numb a little bit when it comes to the whole political thing,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed when it comes to the text messages and all that.”
As for predictions, “I feel that the popular vote is going to win,” he said, “and I think that God is going to have his way. I’ll say that.”
In Huntingtown, voter Jerry Sterner marveled at the turnout.
“I think this is wonderful,” he said. “This is the most I’ve seen come out in 40 years. Reagan was the other big event too. So you’re part of history.”
One of the biggest polling sites in the state is FedEx Field in Landover. Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, who dropped off her ballot at the Board of Elections, stopped by to see how things were going.
“This is actually a fun time,” she said. “I always enjoy getting out and watching people participate.”
Alsobrooks said the choice this year has never been clearer.
“I think there is a great amount of anxiety about it,” she said. “I think we’re going to all be relieved hopefully to move past this moment, and to be able to move together hopefully as a united country.”
In Silver Spring, Dorsey Scofield told WTOP’s John Domen he got in line just after 5 a.m. so he could help “change the system.”
Hear more from Scofield below.
Domen also spoke with Silver Spring teacher Allison Howell, who said she had been waiting to cast her vote since 5 a.m.
“Obviously, this is one of the most important elections. And as a teacher, I want to make sure that I’m a role model,” she said.
Hear more from Howell below.
In Laurel, one voter named Erin said she chose to vote in person on Tuesday because she couldn’t be certain her vote would be counted if she voted in advance.
“I didn’t really trust the mail-in ballot system to use it in advance, so I came in here today,” she said. “I didn’t trust the Postal Service, and I don’t necessarily trust the supporters of the candidate I’m not voting for to leave the ballot boxes alone and let democracy work the way it’s supposed to.”
In Howard County, Jose Valdenegro voted Tuesday because the election “as a Latino, is a referendum on all minorities in the country,” he said. “You need to vote to make sure everybody has equal rights and to get the white supremacists and white nationalists out of office.”
He said his son was beaten up after the 2016 election just because his name was Jose.
“This has been a pretty rough four years,” Valdenegro said.
In Anne Arundel County, Denise Seka of Odenton said it was a “great honor to come out and vote.”
Seka hopes to give President Trump four more years “to continue what he’s doing.”
“… I don’t look at the propaganda, I don’t look at the rhetoric on the news,” she said. “I look at the fact, and that’s what I go for. For holding down what he’s doing in this time of the hour, to me, it is commendable.”
Another Odenton resident, Dawn Alder, said she, too, would vote for Trump. Hear more from her below:
What happens next?
As an anxious nation awaits the results, some are channeling their nervous energy into protests.
In D.C., that epicenter is Black Lives Matter Plaza, where at least one group is gathering. WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez reports that activity around the plaza was picking up as the evening began.
#NOW: The first polls are starting to close on election night, and a crowd is gathering in downtown D.C. outside the fenced-off northern approach to the White House.
Protests are likely to stretch into the late night. Organizers are stockpiling water, food and medical supplies. pic.twitter.com/yVfDokBbmB
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) November 3, 2020
Another protest, organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, was set for outside National City Christian Church, at 14th Street and Massachusetts Avenue Northwest.
Meantime, local businesses were boarding up their storefronts and ground-floor windows in case of violence.
While the Business Improvement District for Golden Triangle — the area just north of the White House — said it did not recommend that businesses take that pre-emptive measure, many decided to err on the side of caution. In late May and early June, the BID said more than 80 storefronts were damaged and 25 businesses were looted.
On Monday, the National Park Service announced that additional security fencing would be going up near the White House. More security measures were taken Tuesday evening around the Trump International Hotel, with D.C. police surrounding it.
Making it count
This election season arguably began when Maryland Rep. John Delaney announced his candidacy for president July 28, 2017. And while it’s tempting to say that it’ll all be over Tuesday night, the reality is the counting will continue after that.
Absentee ballots in Maryland have been counted since the beginning of October. In Virginia, ballots have been getting processed all along, and those that are ready will be counted before 11 p.m. But in all three jurisdictions, ballots can be postmarked Tuesday, which means they won’t arrive to be counted until days later.
Election officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia have all emphasized: The count will not be final for weeks, and it has always been this way.
What’s on the ballot?
The presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is at the top of the ticket, but all seats in the U.S. House and one U.S. Senate seat from Virginia are also up for grabs, as well as a host of local races and bond issues.
See what’s at stake with our voter guides.
WTOP’s Rick Massimo, Neal Augenstein, Kristi King, Melissa Howell, John Domen, Will Vitka and Jack Moore and George Washington University’s Emily Venezky contributed to this report.