Fairfax considers changes to ease voting lines

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

FAIRFAX, Va. – Long lines at the voting booth. Voters standing in the cold while they wait. And in-person absentee balloting shut down by bad weather. They all plagued voters last November.

Now a bipartisan commission in Fairfax County has come up with a long list of recommendations to eliminate those problems.

Among the 50 recommendations the commission made to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is standardizing the voting machines by making the optical scanner machines available countywide.

Voters in parts of the county have been using touch screen machines. But the Virginia General Assembly has taken them off the list of machines approved for future purchase after concerns arose over their accuracy.

Commission Chair Kate Hanley says the machine change will avoid voter confusion, which slows down the voting process.

“It will, I think, make the process go much more smoothly, particularly if they’re longer ballots,” Hanley says.

The commission reports they were limited in what they could recommend to county officials because most of the rules are set by the state.

The commission also recommends more training for poll workers and improving the flow of voters through the precinct — what Hanley called the “Disney approach.”

Among the other recommendations:

  • Provide a dedicated phone line or email to communicate trouble at polling places to the county board of elections in a timely manner.
  • Better coordinate with the school system about the size of polling rooms and parking spaces available.
  • Offer longer hours for in-person absentee voting prior to Election Day.

Any changes are likely to be phased in and some, which will cost money, could be delayed because of county budget constraints.

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