Last Chance to Be Counted: Early Turnout High, Officials Ready for Tuesday

With one of the most chaotic elections in American history coming to a close—hopefully—on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Loudoun’s polling places are an oasis of good organization and short wait times.

On the ballot will be the battle for president and vice president, Republican Daniel Gade’s attempt to unseat Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Republican Aliscia Andrews’ bid to replace Rep. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-VA-10), two state constitutional amendments, and a number of countywide ballot questions on issuing bonds to fund public projects.

Those amendments include creating a new redistricting commission and exempting disabled veterans from paying state and local taxes on their cars and trucks.

People living in three towns will also have some local choices to make. In Leesburg, the mayorship and three seats on the Town Council are up for grabs. Incumbent Mayor C. B. “Kelly” Burk and challenger R. E. “Ron” Campbell are on the ballot for mayor. Ara H. Bagdasarian, Zachary J. “Zach” Cummings, Kari M. Nacy and Bill T. Replogle are in a four-way race for three council seats.

In Hillsboro, the terms of Mayor Roger Vance, Vice Mayor Amy Marasco and Councilmembers Claudia Forbes, Bill Johnston, Stephen Moskal and Laney Oxman all expire this year. All but Johnston will seek re-election via write-ins—a tradition unique to the town. Resident Lisa Franke is seeking the write-in vote to take Johnston’s place. All six elected officials will serve two-year terms.

And in Round Hill, residents will vote in a special election to fill one Town Council seat for which Jesse Howe is running unopposed. The elected council member will serve out the remainder of a four-year term through June 30, 2022.

But despite what may be historic turnout, voters on election day in Loudoun likely will not see a crowd.

While voters in neighboring Fairfax County have complained of hours-long waits to vote early, in Loudoun, waits of more than a few minutes are uncommon. This is despite tens of thousands of Loudouners already turning out to vote, according to Deputy Registrar Richard Keech.

Altogether as of Tuesday, about 63,000 people have voted early in person, and another 53,000 by mail, Keech said. Close to 4,000 of those voted just on Tuesday, Oct. 27, and he said the pace of voting is likely to pick up in the final few days of early voting, which closes Saturday.

Loudouners have requested about 80,000 mailed ballots, and, as of Tuesday, about 20,000 have yet to be returned, Keech said.

Election officials are planning for enormous turnout. Keech said where previous elections have seen 75 to 77% turnout, they are planning on 85% turnout this year—about 240,000 people voting in Loudoun. But they estimate more than half of those, about 150,000, will have already cast their ballot when Election Day arrives—making the biggest turnout in history look like a slow local election on Tuesday.

“I’m telling our chiefs when we do training that my best guess is that Tuesday should be somewhat like a slow local election, to be honest,” Keech said. “Because we should be looking at about 32 to 33% of the voters appearing on Tuesday, and I think our last local Board of Supervisors election was 42%, so it would be a relatively slow day.”

That’s good news, in a time when being in a crowd can mean putting lives at risk—and there, too, polling places are prepared.

“We are encouraging people to wear the face mask or face covering, as in Loudoun County it is required that you have it on to enter a government building, and we will have provisions in place for thosepeople that aren’t wearing one to vote outdoors,” said Registrar Judy Brown. Social distancing rules also apply inside, including to political party-appointed poll watchers.

“We have tried to make it clear to the political parties that they have to understand that with social distancing, the voter is standing 6 feet in front of the check-in table, then you have everybody wearing a mask, and they have to sit 6 feet behind the people at the check-in,” Brown said. “So it’s going to be very hard for them to hear the names that are being called out.”

This year, no international observers will be authorized because of space constraints.

Early Voting Ends Saturday

This year, voters have more flexibility than ever in casting their ballot, but the last chance to vote ahead of Election Day is rapidly approaching. The final day for early voting is Saturday, Oct. 31. Election offices will be open until 5 p.m. that day. There are five locations to vote early, and absentee ballots can be dropped off at more than a dozen places across the county.

Mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than Election Day, and will be accepted as long as they arrive by noon on Friday.

If you requested a mail-in ballot but decide to vote in-person, you should bring that mail-in ballot with you or you will have to cast a provisional ballot. But if you’re voting early, you can simply fill out the mail-in ballot and drop it off. On Election Day, bring it with you to exchange for an in-person ballot.

Get more information on voting early, including where to drop a ballot, atloudoun.gov/VoteEarly.

Elections officials guide voters through early voting during extended hours at the Office of Elections on Miller Drive in Leesburg on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Voting on Tuesday

Polls in Loudoun will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov 3.

Most voters will cast their ballots at their normal polling locations on Election Day, but three precincts have been moved. Precinct 819, which previously voted at Heritage Church,has been moved to Broad Run High School, 21670 Ashburn Rd. Precinct 118, Moorefield, has been moved to Briar Woods High School, 22525 Belmont Ridge Rd. And Precinct 401, West Lovettsville, is returning to its original location of the Lovettsville Volunteer Fire and Rescue Station, 12837 Berlin Turnpike.

Anyone who is not sure about where to vote may check their voter registration card or look up their polling place and related information online atvote.elections.virginia.gov. A list of polling places is available atloudoun.gov/polls.

Voters are required to show an acceptable form of identification, such as a Virginia DMV-issued driver’s license, voter registration card, U.S. passport, student ID from a college or university located in Virginia, government-issued ID or an employer-issued ID.Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters will be required to wear a face covering when entering the polling place.

Sample ballots are online atloudoun.gov/NovemberElection.

Tallying Up

With many states, including Virginia, accepting mail-in ballots after Election Day, in the case of close races it is possible voters won’t know the results of the election on Tuesday night. But in Loudoun they won’t be waiting around to find out about the ballots that have already been cast. Those ballots are already being processed, and those numbers will be released with the rest of the election results on Tuesday. But in landslide races, it may be that the relatively few late-arriving mail-in ballots won’t be enough to swing the results.

Randall to Fill in for Intimidated Poll Worker

County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) will work at the polls in Lovettsville on election day afternoon, covering for a person who felt she had been intimidated, Randall said.

Randall first mentioned her plans during a virtual roundtable with actress and playwright Danai Gurira and other organizers on Oct. 16.

Afterward she said the change was prompted by a Facebook post.

“We had a person who normally works at the polling places in Lovettsville who was concerned about … the Facebook post from [Minuteman Arms gun shop owner] Warner Workman that said something like, ‘buy your AR-15 now because the election’s coming,” Randall said. “So she sent a letter to the paper expressing her concern and she has gotten—I guess you would call them pseudo-threats. People asking, do you know where she lives and things like that. And so she’s really worried about it.”

After a complaint to the Sheriff’s Office, the same now-deleted Facebook post led to an investigation but no charges. Workman previously stirred controversy forurging Lovettsville residents to arrive armed and crowd into the Town Council chambersfor a vote on a proclamationdeclaring that the council supported the U.S. and Virginia constitutions by opposing legislation that “infringes upon the right to keep and bear arms,” according to the proclamation.

“They’ve asked if the elected officials would cover some of those polling areas, because they’re worried about Election Day intimidation,” Randall said.

Randall said she is hearing concerns about voter intimidation on Election Day and unrest afterward if President Donald J. Trump is not re-elected “from people who are not histrionic people, who don’t overreact, people who are pretty calm.”

But by and large, Brown said, poll workers have not indicated many problems.

“We’re trying to assure them that it’s not going to be the traditional presidential election day that we’re accustomed to,” Brown said. “It’s going to be more like a slow local election.”

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