Morning Notes

Behind a townhome in Hickory Cluster (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Virginia General Assembly Convenes for Special Session — “The General Assembly returns on Monday to the Capitol it left 17 months ago as the coronavirus first gripped Virginia…Legislators meeting in a scheduled two-week special session have just two tasks on their to-do list, both highly consequential: allocating $4.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds and appointing a slew of judges to the state’s second-highest court.” [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Man Arrested for Participating in Capitol Breach — “A Fairfax County, Virginia, man was arrested on six charges Thursday after a high school acquaintance tipped off the FBI about his alleged participation in the Capitol riot on January 6…[Luke Wessley] Bender faces six counts, including a felony count of obstruction of Congress that carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.” [WUSA9]

Reston Community Center Candidate Filing Now Open — “Help your community by becoming a candidate for RCC’s Board of Governors. Candidate filing for the 2021 RCC Preference Poll is now open. Please download the candidate handbook and candidacy statement from our website and return by August 15.” [RCC/Facebook]

Reston Community Remembers Local Humanitarian — Described as a “pioneer, humanitarian, and entrepreneur,” longtime Reston resident Burton “Burt” Emmanuel Lamkin died on June 24 at the age of 86. Though he went to California a few years ago to be closer to family, he and his wife Kathryne were among the first African Americans to live in Reston when they moved there in 1966, and he was heavily involved in the Rotary Club of Herndon. [Connection Newspapers]

Photos: Reston Association Hosts Annual Tennis Tournament — “The 2021 Reston Simon Cup tennis tournament was held from mid through late July. Men’s and women’s singles and doubles matches were played at the Lake Newport tennis courts.” [RA/Facebook]

via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Fairfax County Gave Republican Governor Nominee Tax Break — “GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin and his wife last year successfully petitioned Fairfax County to designate their horse farm as an agricultural district, which led to a 95% reduction in the taxes they pay on the 31.5-acre property in Great Falls that surrounds their home.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Material Costs Drive Up Silver Line Phase 2 Costs — “The Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority is having to pay an extra $20 million to cover the higher cost of materials needed to build the extension of Metro’s Silver Line…So far, the construction’s progress has eaten up $2.464 billion, but the airports authority maintains the [$2.778 billion] budget won’t change, thanks to contingency funds.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Redistricting Committee to Meet Next Week — Fairfax County’s 20-person Redistricting Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting on Tuesday (July 27) at 6 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center. Open to the public, the meeting will focus on legal requirements, equity, and bylaws as the group prepares to recommend new electoral boundaries for the county’s supervisor and school board districts. [Fairfax County Government]

Reston Hospital Hires New Executive — Allyssa Tobitt will serve as Reston Hospital Center’s new chief operating officer starting Aug. 2. Replacing Ben Brown, who moved to Dominion Hospital in West Falls Church, she worked at the corporate office of Reston Hospital’s parent company HCA Healthcare in Nashville, Tennessee as well as at hospitals in its for-profit health system near Miami and Tampa, Florida. [HCA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Lake Anne Plaza with crane in background (via vantagehill/Flickr)

New Laws Take Effect in Virginia — A host of new laws passed by the General Assembly take effect today (Thursday), including the legalization of simple marijuana possession, the abolition of the death penalty, and a requirement that drivers change lanes when passing bicyclists. The fine for littering is now $500, up from $250, and it is now illegal to intentionally release a balloon outside. [Patch]

Police Community Forum Tonight — The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston District Station will hold a virtual community information forum at 7 p.m. today that will include discussion of trends, upcoming events, and officer and case highlights from the past month. Send questions to [email protected] [RA/Twitter]

Republican Challenger to Ken Plum Will Be on BallotVeteran Matt Lang will officially appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot as the Republican candidate for the 36th House District, which includes Reston and is currently represented by Del. Ken Plum. The State Board of Elections approved his candidacy upon appeal yesterday (Wednesday) after his application was initially blocked by a late filing certification. [Virginia Public Access Project]

Changes to Permitted Agritourism Activities Approved — “Fairfax County supervisors, despite objections from some local residents and environmental groups, on June 22 approved new ‘agritourism’ rules that will allow certain by-right commercial operations in agricultural settings…Allowable activities include farm tours, harvest-your-own activities, seasonal festivals and attractions, events, hiking, horseback riding and other activities, historical and cultural endeavors.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fairfax County’s once-a-decade redistricting process took a significant step forward this morning (Tuesday), as the Board of Supervisors approved appointees to a committee that will be responsible for recommending new district boundaries.

The 20-person Redistricting Advisory Committee consists of one resident representative from each of the county’s nine magisterial districts as well as three at-large members.

The county board made a conscious effort to appoint individuals from a variety of backgrounds, including people from the local African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Arab-American communities, according to the news release.

“Redistricting must be done fairly and in a way that ensures transparency and fair representation of the diversity of Fairfax County,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “This is a community-led process, and I am confident the committee will develop fair and equal districts and everyone will have the same access to representation.”

Like other localities, Fairfax County is required by Virginia law to reexamine its electoral district boundaries every 10 years to ensure that each district has roughly the same number of people, with adjustments based on how the population has changed.

Because redistricting is tied to U.S. Census data, whose delivery has been delayed this year, the RAC won’t be able to start its work until Aug. 30. The committee is scheduled to deliver a report with its proposed district boundaries on Oct. 19, though it will ultimately be up to the Board of Supervisors to adopt a new plan on Dec. 7.

The county says members of the general public will be encouraged to provide input on the new district maps, including through an online portal that will allow residents to draw their own maps.

“Public input will be key to the committee’s efforts,” the county said. “Residents are encouraged to submit their own plans and provide feedback, revisions and comments on the committee’s or other’s proposed plans.”

The Hunter Mill District, which includes Reston, will be represented on the committee by Richard Chew, the Hunter Mill District chair for the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. He is one of seven FCDC members appointed to the RAC.

The full list of appointees, information about the redistricting schedule, and an overview of the legal criteria and policies guiding the process can be found on the county website.

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Voting in Fairfax County (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 9:05 a.m. on 6/11/21) Yesterday’s Democratic primary for the 86th House District proved to be, by percentage points, one of the closest races in the entire Commonwealth.

When all the votes were tallied, including absentee ballots, challenger Irene Shin had beaten the incumbent Ibraheem Samirah by only 230 votes, or 3.48 percentage points. Shin is now set to face Republican and high school history teacher Julie Perry  in November’s general election.

In Fairfax County, which shares the district with a small portion of Loudoun County, the result was even tighter with Shin winning by fewer than 200 votes and 3.22 percentage points, according to the county office of elections’ unofficial returns.

Samirah’s ascension to the General Assembly in 2019 was part of a blue wave that solidified Virginia’s political transformation from reliably conservative to left-leaning. He conceded the primary via social media at 11:15 p.m. yesterday, saying that it was an honor to represent the 86th District and how proud he was of his campaign.

Shin declared victory via social media shortly thereafter, stating that “we made history tonight,” while thanking supporters and everyone who had endorsed her campaign.

In a letter that also went out to supporters last night, Shin wrote that the victory left her “completely overwhelmed.”

“Entering this race was not an easy decision. I knew that challenging an incumbent in a Delegate race would be difficult,” she wrote. “Together, we knocked over 12,000 doors and made tens of thousands of phone calls. We built a grassroots movement with support from across the district. From Reston to Herndon to Chantilly, we ran the whole district.”

Neither Samirah nor Shin thanked the other candidate.

Samirah was one of five incumbent candidates to lose last night, a record dating back to 2001.

First elected in February 2019, Samirah gained some level of fame later that year for disrupting a Trump speech in Jamestown by yelling, “Mr. President, you can’t send us back, Virginia is our home!”

While he found some support for touting progressive policies, his occasionally confrontational approach ruffled some feathers, and a number of prominent Virginia Democrats supported Shin in this election, including state Sens. Jennifer Boysko and Janet Howell as well as Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem.

“I look forward to working at my dental practice in Reston, spending time with family, and finding ways to unify the progressive movement in Northern Virginia,” Samirah told Reston Now by email.

Next door, in the 36th House District that encompasses Reston, Del. Ken Plum — the incumbent and the longest-serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates — won a decisive victory in the primary over challenger Mary Barthelson with more than 77% of the vote. Read More

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(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Virginia’s lieutenant governor race is coming to Reston.

The nonpartisan community action group #RestonStrong is hosting a forum for the candidates running to succeed current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is vying to become governor, at Lake Anne Washington Plaza on Saturday (May 22) at 11 a.m.

#RestonStrong founder Sarah Selvaraj D’Souza says the group wanted to host the forum to help Reston residents learn how the lieutenant governor candidates address the issues they care about.

“The event is to educate and encourage citizen participation in the upcoming state election on matters impacting Restonians,” she told Reston Now.

Four candidates for lieutenant governor have confirmed their attendance at Saturday’s forum: former Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, Del. Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge), Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), and Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).

All lieutenant governor candidates were invited, and D’Souza says more may accept the invitation by Saturday.

The other contenders are Norfolk City Councilmember Andria McClellan (D), Arlington businessman Xavier Warren (D), independent Bobby Junes, and former state delegate and Marine veteran Winsome Sears, who clinched the Republican Party’s nomination for the position on May 11 after a convention.

The event will be held at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern with overflow seating at Café Montmartre. D’Souza says #RestonStrong chose those two local, minority-owned businesses as the venues to support them as they try to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those unable to attend in person, the forum will stream live on #RestonStrong’s website, Facebook, and Instagram, along with the Lake Anne Washington Plaza Facebook. The event will proceed rain or shine. To make reservations at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern, email [email protected] or call 703-707-0660.

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When early voting began at the North County Government Center in Reston on Saturday (April 24), the crowd of electioneers assembled outside the building dwarfed the number of people casting their ballots inside the building.

The absence of lines contrasted sharply with the 2020 general election, when Fairfax County sometimes saw hour-long waits at early voting sites. This time, the biggest hold-up was the few extra seconds election volunteers needed to sort through 16 different ballots and match them with the right voters.

While not surprised by the relatively muted turnout for the first days of early voting for the June 8 Democratic primary, which started on April 23 at the Fairfax County Government Center before expanding to two satellite locations a day later, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says it’s too soon to make any confident projections about what early voting will look like in the future.

“Going through a couple of election cycles, I think we need to do that before we can come to any long-term conclusions about how early voting is best done, how to staff it, what resources are necessary,” he said.

Even with a crowded gubernatorial contest on the ballot, the 2021 election cycle likely won’t match the high turnout for last year’s general election, which was buoyed by an especially heated presidential race, but there is already evidence that the Virginia’s new laws permanently expanding the accessibility of absentee voting are paying off.

According to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, 63,508 voters have requested mail ballots, and 709 people have voted in person, as of April 24. In comparison, there were just 35,390 early voters in the 2017 primaries, the last time that Virginia had a governor’s race, and that includes 8,815 people who requested mail ballots but never returned them.

Fairfax County has gotten 11,222 mail ballot requests and 68 in-person voters. In 2017, 3,109 people voted early in person, and 1,919 people voted by mail.

Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy attributes this uptick to recent legislative changes made by the Virginia General Assembly, particularly the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting that took effect last year.

“Since the last gubernatorial election, voting by mail has become easier in Virginia,” Worthy said. “Not only can any registered voter do so without needing a reason as was required in the past, but also the law now makes it easy to vote by mail permanently. As a result, the Office of Elections expects to see an increase in voting by mail over time as has happened in other states that have implemented similar laws.”

Legislators took further action to make early voting more accessible during a special session in March, including requiring localities to offer ballot drop-off boxes, permitting absentee voting on Sundays, and suspending witness signature requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, though those laws don’t take effect until July 1.

Early voting is also “way up” in Falls Church City compared to the last gubernatorial primary, according to Director of Elections and General Registrar David Bjerke.

Bjerke told Reston Now on Friday (April 23) that the city had sent out 315 ballots so far, including 176 mail ballots and 139 email ballots to overseas voters, and three people showed up to vote in person that day. The 2017 primary saw just 240 early voters total, even though the Democratic and Republican parties both held elections that summer.

“It’s a huge increase,” Bjerke said. Read More

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Morning Notes

New Fairfax County Registrar Sworn In — Scott O. Konopasek was officially sworn in as Fairfax County’s new general registrar by Clerk of the Court John T. Frey yesterday (Monday). Konopasek was appointed by the Electoral Board in March 11 and replaces Gary Scott, who retired after working for the county’s elections office for 24 years. [Fairfax County Office of Elections/Twitter]

Pedestrian and Bicycle Fatalities High Despite Pandemic — “Despite the reduction in vehicle traffic, early data from 2020 indicate the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed in traffic incidents remained steady across the [D.C.] region — accounting for 29 percent of all traffic fatalities, the Metropolitan Council of Governments said in a news release.” [Inside NoVA]

Governor Tours Tysons Mass Vaccine Site — “Today, I toured @TysonsCorner Vaccination Center w/ @GovernorVA, @RepDonBeyer, @DelegateKeam, @JeffreyCMcKay, & @SupvPalchik to see the set up for tomorrow’s opening. From machines that connect folks to a translator in real-time to 3k appointments for tomorrow. The site is ready.” [Senator Mark Warner/Twitter]

Herndon Satellite Company Expands Capacity — “BlackSky, a leading provider of real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring services that recently announced a planned business combination with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: SFTW), today shared that its BlackSky 7 satellite completed the commissioning process and entered full commercial operations within two weeks of launch.” [Black Sky]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

D.C. Region Backs Statehood for Capital — The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Board of Directors, which consists of elected officials from D.C. area governments, unanimously passed a resolution yesterday (Wednesday) urging Congress to “establish the state of Washington, D.C. without delay.” Fairfax County was represented on a task force dedicated to the issue of D.C. statehood by Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk. [MWCOG]

NoVA to Expand COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments — Virginia Vaccine Program Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula says that COVID-19 vaccine appointments will become more readily available in Northern Virginia “in the next couple of weeks.” Loudoun County and the City of Alexandria have already entered Phase 2, but appointments may initially become harder to schedule when localities like Fairfax County expand eligibility. [WTOP]

Bilingual Election Officers Needed for Primary — The Fairfax County Office of Elections is looking for individuals who speak English and Vietnamese or Korean to serve as election officers for the Democratic primary on June 8. The application deadline is on April 28. [Fairfax County Office of Elections/Twitter]

Reston Association Thanks Trash Clean-up Volunteers — “Many thanks to all the volunteers who took part in last Saturday’s 33rd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup coordinated by the Alice Ferguson Foundation. A total of 93 volunteers collected 115 bags of trash.” [RA/Twitter]

Comscore Partners with Atlas Obscura — The Reston-based media analytics company Comscore announced an agreement yesterday with the online guidebook and travel company Atlas Obscura. The deal gives Atlas Obscura access to Comscore’s data platform so that it can “better understand audience behavior and media consumption across desktop and mobile devices.” [PR Newswire/WFMZ-TV]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Silver Line Phase 2 to Open January 2022 At the Earliest — “During a Thursday briefing, before the Metro Board’s Safety and Operations Committee, Laura Mason, vice president of capital delivery for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said at least 10 Silver Line construction items remain unresolved before Metro will be satisfied with the work by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its contractor.” [WTOP]

New Fairfax County General Registrar Appointed — “The Fairfax County Electoral Board appointed Scott O. Konopasek as the county’s new general registrar and director of elections at its March 11, 2021, meeting. He will lead the Fairfax County Office of Elections following the retirement of the current registrar Gary Scott who has worked in the office for the past 24 years. Konopasek’s tentative starting date is April 19.” [Fairfax County Government]

Reston Contractor Working with Space Force — The Reston-based contractor SAIC is working with the U.S. Space Force to develop a virtual reality training platform that lets workers “interact with full-scale digital replicas of national security satellites. The platform lets the armed forces practice responding to missile warning scenarios and collaborate in cyberspace.” [The Washington Post]

Comscore Closes Investment Transactions — Reston-based media measurement and analytics company Comscore Inc. announced Thursday that it has secured $204 million in cash investments from the companies Charter Communications Inc., Qurate Retail Inc., and an affiliate of New York-based Cerberus Capital Management LP. The investments came in exchange for shares of convertible preferred stock, and proceeds were used to retire Comscore’s debts. [Virginia Business]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The 2021 Reston Association Board of Director elections are here.

Every spring, the Reston Association elects three new members to their Board of Directors. Five candidates are certified this year for three spots, including four for the two at-large spots and one for the South Lakes District. All new members will serve a three-year term.

Ballots close April 2 for drop-off and online submission. Results will be announced April 13.

The candidates are:

At-Large (two seats available)

John Farrell 

A Reston resident since 1984 who is firmly the president of the Colonial Oaks Cluster, he wants facility improvements to be funded by new developers into the area.

Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza

An incumbent at-large representative, she is promoting transparency and smart money management. She founded RESTONSTRONG last year and held peaceful demonstrations.

Timothy J. Dowling

A retired attorney who served as the chief counsel on the Community Rights Counsel. A long-time resident, his priorities would be fiscal oversight, protecting opening spaces, and preserving Reston’s natural resources.

Vincent Dory

A programmer, he’s committed to solving all the technological questions and issues that may come up on the board. His primary concern is to preserve and protect the core principles of Reston’s unique design.

South Lakes District (one seat available)

Jennifer Jushchuk

A Reston resident since 2014, priorities include fiscal responsibility, communication, collaboration, and advocacy.

Further information about the candidates and their priorities can be found here.

Photo via Reston Association/Facebook.

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The Constitution requires that after the federal census every ten years there is to be a reapportionment of legislative districts based on population growth and shifts reflecting “one-man, one-vote.” Virginia voters made history this year by approving a constitutional amendment establishing a Redistricting Commission. With Virginia having elections in odd-numbered years including in 2021 elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and members of the House of Delegates, Virginia is on a fast track to get the Commission underway.

In the special session that ended in October, the General Assembly passed enabling legislation to establish the Commission by November 15. Already the eight legislators who will be on the Commission have been named as well as the retired judges who will participate. In all instances of appointing members, consideration shall be given “to the racial, ethnic, geographic, and gender diversity of the Commonwealth.” The partisan leadership in the House and Senate who made the appointments were prohibited from appointing themselves.

Applications are being accepted through December 28 from citizens who would like to serve on the Commission. Persons who have been involved in partisan political activity or who are relatives of members in office or those involved in partisan political activity are not eligible to serve on the Commission. For details on who is eligible for membership and details on applying, go to redistricting.dls.virginia.gov.

The enabling language for the Commission includes extensive requirements for public participation in the redistricting process. “All meetings and hearings held by the Commission shall be adequately advertised and planned to ensure the public is able to attend and participate fully. Meetings and hearings shall be advertised in multiple languages as practicable and appropriate.” At least three public hearings are to be held. The legislation also requires that “All data used by the Commission in the drawing of districts shall be available to the public on its website. Such data, including census data, precinct maps, election results, and shapefiles, shall be posted within three days of receipt by the Commission.”

The Commission is required to submit to the General Assembly plans for districts for the Senate and the House of Delegates of the General Assembly no later than 45 days following the receipt of census data and for Congressional Districts by 60 days. If the Commission is unable to agree on districts, the responsibility for drawing of district lines goes to the state Supreme Court. The law requires that the Court shall appoint two special masters to assist the Court in the establishment of districts. The two special masters shall work together to develop any plan to be submitted to the Court for its consideration. Special masters have been used by the courts to resolve district conflicts in the past including related to Virginia past redistricting.

The timing on the process is limited between the availability of census data and primary elections that could result in a delay in primary elections and reduced time before the general election. Virginia voters have spoken, and a complex process is underway to ensure that voters pick their representatives rather than legislators picking their voters.

File photo

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors praised election workers and volunteers yesterday (Tuesday) for their work on the 2020 general election, which presented local voters with new opportunities and unprecedented obstacles.

With voters turning out in record numbers, Fairfax County’s election staff had to adapt to the logistical challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic on top of implementing a slew of new state laws to improve voting accessibility, including the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting and the elimination of photo identification requirements.

“There’s no doubt we had an amazing year,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “[The election staff] came through with flying colors, and we definitely have to recognize that and appreciate that.”

While this year’s 79.4% turnout rate fell short of the 82.5% high mark set in 2016, the 605,023 ballots cast for the Nov. 3 general election were the most in Fairfax County history. There were also about 80,000 more active registered voters than in 2016 and only 25,667 inactive voters, compared to 64,041 in 2016.

Fairfax County Electoral Board Secretary Katherine Hanley confirmed again in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors that absentee voting drove turnout this year, with only 186,253 people voting in person on Election Day, an even lower number than election officials predicted.

By contrast, there were 414,381 absentee votes. The county received 222,003 by-mail absentee ballots, including approximately 85,000 that were returned through a drop box, and 192,398 people voted in person before Election Day at one of 15 early voting locations.

Fairfax County also had 4,389 provisional ballots.

According to Hanley, the Fairfax County Office of Elections contacted 2,113 voters about small issues with their mail ballots. 1,315 of those voters fixed their ballots, a 63% cure rate.

One thing that surprised election officials was the 17,633 ballots that were either surrendered or goldenrod, meaning that it was never received, lost, or left at home by the voter.

“That’s a much bigger number than we thought there would be,” Hanley said.

Because COVID-19 both triggered and coincided with so many changes in Virginia’s election policies, it is difficult to tell whether 2020 was an anomaly or a harbinger of long-lasting shifts in voter behavior, Hanley says.

Voters throughout the county consistently reported long lines and wait times once early voting commenced at the Fairfax County Government Center on Sept. 18, even after 14 satellite locations opened on Oct. 14.

While election officials tried to accommodate the crowds by extending voting times, they could not add more satellite locations, because Virginia law now requires localities to establish satellite voting locations by ordinance. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance establishing its locations for the Nov. 3 election on July 14.

Though the social distancing protocols necessitated by the pandemic will presumably not be a factor in future elections, Hanley says Fairfax County needs to expand early voting opportunities by adding more satellite locations and offering longer hours or more days for people to vote.

Hanley also recommended that the county review its curbside voting procedures, which caused some confusion this year, and its process for reporting preliminary election results, which took longer than usual because 6,100 ballots returned in drop boxes on Election Day had to be counted by hand after the polls closed.

“None of this will matter if the computer systems are not improved,” Hanley said, adding that the Virginia Department of Elections is in the process of upgrading or replacing the VERIS system it uses to manage voter registration and track ballots.

It will also be up to the state to make changes like the ballot drop boxes, voter notification process for curing errors, and prepaid postage for mail absentee ballots permanent. Those were temporary measures enacted by the Virginia General Assembly in response to COVID-19.

“I think ballot drop boxes are something we need to encourage the General Assembly to extend into the future, because they really did have the effect we wanted them to have,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said.

In order to support many of these proposals long-term, Fairfax County will need to devote more money and staff to its election operations, Hanley cautioned.

She says she was “pleasantly surprised” by how many people stepped up to assist with this year’s general election, but it was more challenging to recruit workers for the satellite locations than for Election Day.

The county office of elections ultimately had 3,827 Election Day officers with 140 people in reserve for possible late cancellations, 260 election pages from 30 different schools, 265 early voting officers, 160 officers and three staff members to manage the central absentee precinct, and more than 300 people to handle by-mail absentee ballots.

“We were given a pretty much unlimited budget, and we exceeded it, because we did have other funds coming in,” Hanley said. “We’re going to have to make some judgments with you all about the most efficient way to serve this need and also be responsive to the taxpayers as well.”

Photo via Fairfax County government

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Vice Mayor Sheila Olem has officially been elected as the Town of Herndon’s Mayor, replacing Lisa Merkel, who announced she no longer plans to seek reelection after eight years in office.

Olem swept the election with roughly 61 percent of the total vote, according to election results that were formally released by the town today (Friday). She beat Roland Taylor, who secured 38 percent of the total vote.

The Town of Herndon formally announced results earlier today, but cautioned that Election results will be certified by the Fairfax County Electoral Board on Nov. 16.

Residents who served on past councils dominated the Herndon Town Council election, in which eight candidates sought six seats. Incumbents Cesar del Aguila, Pradip Dhakal, Signe Friedrichs and Jasbinder Singh will return to the council alongside newcomers Sean Regan and Naila Alam.

Olem will assume office on Jan.  1.  A swearing-in ceremony is planned for new officials soon.

The following is a breakdown of unofficial results, per the state’s department of elections:

  • Cesar del Aguila:  13.69. percent
  • Pradip Dhakal: 13.48
  • Sean Regan: 13.09
  • Naila Alam: 12.36
  • Signe Friedrichs: 12.14
  • Clark Hedrick: 11
  • Stevan Porter: 10.73

The certification of results could change the outcome of the town council race, which has traditionally been extremely tight.

Photo via Sheila Olem

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Tears welled up in my eyes last Saturday evening as the President-elect Joe Biden and the Vice President-elect Kamala Harris addressed their supporters and the nation for the first time after having been declared the winners of the presidential election. The words they said, the message they delivered, and the tone they set struck the chords that have been so vitally important to me and to many others throughout our lifetimes. If we seemed ravenous in listening to their words, it was because we have not heard them for too long and were hungering for inspirational and positive leadership.

The President-elect made his approach to governance clear: “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify–who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States, and who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people.” Starting with that kind of attitude will go a long way toward his success in being a unifier.

My interest in politics goes back to my teenage years and has been influenced by the great speeches I have heard, not simply for the words that were said but because of the hope they offered and the vision for greatness for our country they inspired. I stood in the foot-deep snow at the United States Capitol on January 20, 1961 and heard a leader I revered, the new President John F. Kennedy, say in his inaugural speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Another inspirational moment came for me on my birthday, November 3, 2008, when Jane and I stood for hours in a crowd estimated at 80,000 people at the Prince William County Fairgrounds waiting for candidate Barack Obama who arrived at 10:30 p.m. for the final appearance of his campaign to be president. In his usual inspiring way he told us, “I come away with an unyielding belief that if we only had a government as responsible as all of you, as compassionate as the American people, that there is no obstacle that we can’t overcome. There is no destiny that we cannot fulfill.”

In an echo of President Kennedy’s words, former President Obama this fall challenged the country with his words, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” And just as President-elect Biden reminded us of the unity of America, Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention in 2004 in a speech that brought him to the attention of political leaders had reminded us that, “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America–there’s the United States of America.”

While these quotes are words, they reflect attitudes and beliefs that can stir us to positive action to realize the potential for an honest and decent America that is open and inclusive and where the American dream can become a reality for all.

File photo

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