Reston, VA

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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In the 2020 presidential election, Fairfax County voters cast a record number of votes — 600,238 — but the overall turnout was not record-breaking.

This year, 78.8 percent of the county’s 761,753 active registered voters took part in the election,  down from the 2016 presidential election when turnout was 82.5 percent and roughly 563,000 votes were cast. 

In the 2012 general election, the turnout rate was 80.5 percent

“This election year was unlike any other we have ever seen,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “Our turnout throughout the process was truly encouraging and spoke to our residents’ faith in the democratic process.”

Fairfax County voters strongly favored Democrats in this year’s election, supporting Joe Biden over incumbent President Donald Trump and reelecting Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Don Beyer (8th District), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (10th District), and Rep. Gerry Connolly (11th District) to Congress. Precinct-level reporting offering some variation.

It’s important to note that while turnout did not break records, the number of registered voters went up significantly from around 683,000 in 2016 to 761,573 this year. More than two-thirds of votes cast were absentee votes due to no-excuse absentee voting.

The county expects to officially certify election results on Nov. 16.

The Hunter Mill District boasted the highest turnout for the election. More than 81 percent of the Hunter Mill District’s 93,193 active registered voters cast a ballot in the Nov. 3 election, either in person on Election Day or absentee. The district is also the only one in the county with over 90,000 active registered voters as of Oct. 30. Springfield District had the second highest turnout at 80.8%

In the Town of Herndon, Vice Mayor Sheila Olem swept up the Mayoral election with a resounding 61 percent of total votes. Roland Taylor took. 38 percent of the total vote.

The winners of the Herndon Town Council election were separated by a handful of votes. Town spokesperson Anne Curtis said the town is expected to announce results once they are certified by the county. On election night, early election results changed dramatically due to a data entry error.

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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.

This column is being written before election day with a schedule for publication the day after the polls close. It may be a bit optimistic to suppose that the results of the many election day contests will be known by the next day, but I surely hope for my own sanity and those I know that the results will be known right away. The eagerness of voters to see these elections over with is evident by the historically high number of persons casting their votes early. In some localities the number of votes cast early eclipsed the total number of votes cast in that place four years ago. The event reported on social media where a voter asked those standing in line how long they had been waiting to vote and got the response “four years!” may not have actually happened, but it certainly captured the sentiment of many including myself that the last nearly four years have been a disaster for our country and its institutions. Pandemic aside we have much to do to restore faith in our institutions and confidence in each other and our communities.

In Virginia there were elections only for federal offices this year as state offices are filled in “off year” elections. Next year voters will choose a new governor–as Virginia governors cannot succeed themselves–lieutenant governor, attorney general and all members of the House of Delegates. While the results for federal offices are just coming in with some congressional races downstate reflecting the wide division of opinions reflected nationwide, there are those who are already lining up for the statewide positions that will be on the ballot next year. If you thought that some space would be freed up on your e-mail accounts with the elections this year being over, think again. Many people have already announced for election next year with more no doubt coming soon from whom you will be receiving pleas for support and of course for funding to make their election possible.

While we understandably might want a respite from politics, the sudden shift in attention to the next election cycle is good news. It shows our faith in the system and our understanding of the need for healing and active work to repair the immense damage of the last nearly four years. The peaceful evolution of power has been a hallmark of the American system of government from its beginning, and the several attempts to disrupt that process have in the long run been over-ridden. I know the threats that have been made about the transition of power this year, but I am counting on an overwhelming vote result that will erase any doubts about the true winners. Over time with leaders who represent true American values we can deal with the needs of American citizens with honesty, decency, compassion, and equality. The people will have spoken, and the results are in. It is time to put the horrors of the recent past behind us and build a stronger country because we have had a glimpse of the alternative!

 

File photo

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While Virginia’s U.S. Congressional delegation looks like it will remain largely unchanged after the 2020 general election, voters approved a state constitutional amendment that will reshape the process for how their representatives will be chosen in the future.

One of two statewide referendums on the ballot, Constitutional Amendment 1 shifts responsibility for drawing congressional and state legislative district lines from the Virginia General Assembly to a redistricting commission made up of eight legislators and eight appointed citizens.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections unofficial returns, Amendment 1 passed with 65.91% of voters casting their ballot in favor of it, though a few precincts had not yet reported results by Wednesday night and the results will not be official until they are certified on Nov. 16.

Fairfax County approved the measure by a smaller margin than the overall state, with 53.69% of voters supporting it and 46.31% opposing.

“From the start, this movement has been about putting the voices of citizens above politicians and political parties. Today, Virginia voters spoke loud and clear in approving Amendment 1,” Fair Maps VA executive director Brian Cannon and campaign co-chairs Wyatt Durrette and Bobby Vassar said in a joint statement on Wednesday (Nov. 4).

Fair Maps VA is a nonprofit advocacy organization formed in July by OneVirginia2021, the coalition of policymakers and citizens that spearheaded the redistricting commission proposal.

With Virginia set to redraw district lines next year, Fair Maps VA says the proposed commission will combat partisan gerrymandering by giving members of the public “a seat at the table” instead of leaving redistricting exclusively in the hands of legislators, as previously dictated by the Constitution of Virginia.

The General Assembly will vote on new district maps, but it will not be able to change them. If new maps are not approved by set deadlines, the Supreme Court of Virginia will draw them.

“In creating a bipartisan redistricting commission…[voters] said they want a transparent redistricting process,” Cannon, Durrette, and Vassar said. “They want civil rights protections to be added to the state constitution for the very first time. And they said that they want to end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia once and for all.”

However, opponents argue the proposed commission still gives lawmakers too much authority in the once-a-decade redistricting process, allowing them to shape district boundaries to benefit themselves or their party.

Some are wary of the role judges will play in the new process. In addition to giving the Supreme Court the power to draw district maps if necessary, the amendment puts retired circuit court judges in charge of selecting citizens that legislators will ultimately appoint to the commission.

Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus criticized the amendment for not guaranteeing representation on the commission for people of color, who are often targeted by gerrymandering.

“I was a little surprised at the lopsidedness of the outcome,” Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd District) said of Amendment 1’s passage. “I hoped we would’ve done a better job at communicating some of the flaws with the constitutional amendment and convincing folks that we can do a better job of redistricting reform without the amendment than with it.”

Like many other Democrats, Simon initially supported the amendment when legislation to put it on the ballot passed the General Assembly in 2019, but he reversed his position when the issue came up again, as required by state law, during the 2020 session.

Now that the amendment has passed, however, Simon says the General Assembly can craft legislation to address the issues that people have raised, such as bills to establish qualifications for citizens appointed to the commission, ensure diverse representation, and limit the Supreme Court’s discretion.

With the General Assembly still in a special session first convened in August to address the state budget and criminal justice reform, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will likely introduce the first set of enabling legislation for the redistricting commission by the end of this week, and state lawmakers could vote on the proposals early next week, according to Simon.

“I think we can continue to work on a better constitutional amendment for 2031,” Simon said. “So, I plan to start working right away to try to get us to achieve truly independent and nonpartisan redistricting, if not in time for this redistricting, then for the future.”

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While the vote remains undecided nationally at the time of writing, Fairfax County has swung heavily towards Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. At the precinct level, however, the results are a little more divided.

Biden won all three of Herndon’s precincts and all of Reston except Cameron Glen and North Point, which President Donald Trump won by 37 and 78 votes respectively.

Support for the Democratic presidential candidate surged this year in Fairfax County. In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton received 63 percent of the vote while Trump secured just under 30 percent of the vote. This year,  Biden won a decisive 80.67% of absentee votes in the county, while Trump received 17.86%.

In Pimmit, Biden had a six-vote lead over Trump, taking the precinct 48.92% to 48.20%.

Biden swept most of the precincts in the Tysons area, with Tysons itself going 57.71% for Biden. Merrifield had one of the largest percentages of support for Biden, with 62.23%.

The precincts didn’t unanimously favor Biden, however. In McLean and Spring Hill, Trump won by 55.49% and 50.71% respectively.

Further west, Trump won more securely in the Great Falls, Hickory and Seneca and Forestville precincts.

The results of this year’s election are far from final as results from more than 400,000 early voting and mail-in ballots are not reflected in the totals so far.

Absentee votes account for an estimated 51% of Fairfax County’s overall 77.5% voter turnout for this election. They are tallied by a central precinct and are not accounted for in the above breakdown.

Professor Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, told Reston Now that it’s clear Democrats swept to a large victory in Fairfax County.

“[Expressing] trust in a time of such political upheaval… being in a state with the only medical doctor of any state serving as Governor… [and] the ability to rely on facts in the middle of this pandemic is vital to trust in governance at such a difficult time of loss [for] too many American lives,” he said.

Vernon Miles and Fatimah Waseem contributed reporting to this story.

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Phase Two of Election Week to Continue — From this morning to Friday at noon, localities will process mail ballots that were received by 7 p.m. yesterday but not counted that night and hose delivered by USPS and postmarked by Election Day. [Virginia Public Access Project]

Thanksgiving Food Drive Underway  Reston Association is teaming up. With Cornerstones, Reston Community Center, and the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce to help families need. Donations of non-perishable food and other items can be brought to the SunTrust Bank parking lot (11180 South Lakes Drive) on Nov. 7.  A second donation site is planned at North Point Village Center. [RA]

Herndon Man Arrested in Connection with Robbery — “Mohamad Alie Bangura, 30, of Herndon, VA, was arrested for the robbery of a fellow passenger on public transportation. Additionally, Bangura was charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication. He was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center where he was held without bond.” [Herndon Police Deprartment]

Photo via Marjorie Copson

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(Updated at 1:20 am) Newcomer Roland Taylor appeared to be edging out Vice Mayor Sheila Olem in the Town of Herndon’s mayoral race according to preliminary state elections results through 10 p.m. today.

But as the final precinct result from today’s votes poured in, Olem boasted a double-digit lead over Taylor with 61.5 percent of the vote. Taylor secured just 37.8 percent of the total vote. Most of the night, he maintained a two-percent lead over Olem in what appeared to be a close race.

County spokesperson Brian Worthy told Reston Now that a data entry error significantly skewed the results of the town’s race. In both races, the results flipped dramatically.

“Our previous numbers were off as a result of data entry error so you’ll see a big decrease in numbers,” Worthy said.

So far, there are extremely tight margins between eight candidates running for six seats on the Herndon Town Council. The leading candidate — Cesar del Aguila — is leading the pack with 13.6 percent of the total votes while Stevan Porter is coming in last, with 10.7 percent of the total votes.

Here’s the breakdown of how all candidates are faring so far:

  • Cesar del Aguila: 13.66 percent
  • Pradip Dhakal: 13.51 percent
  • Sean Regan: 13.16 percent
  • Naila Alam: 12.29 percent
  • Signe Friedrichs: 12.27 percent
  • Jasbinder Singh: 12.25 percent
  • Clark Hedrick: 10.92 percent
  • Stevan Porter: 10.66 percent

Most election results for Fairfax County are not expected to come in until later today, according to county spokesman Brian Worthy.

Tuesday’s results do not account for the more than 404,000 early votes and absentee ballots cast. That number may be enough to sway the outcome of close races like the Herndon Town Council contest. 

Even in years when record numbers of mail-in ballots were unaccounted for, the race was extremely tight. For example,  in the 2018 Herndon Town Council race, candidate Joe Plummer lost to Bill McKenna by just 22 votes.

The county, which has the most number of early ballots cast of all jurisdictions in the state, will process mail-in ballots that were received by 7 p.m. today but not counted tonight and ballots postmarked on or before Election Day until around noon on Friday.

That means the final results of the Herndon Town Council race may not be clear until Friday afternoon.

Fairfax County voters came out in droves over the last few weeks to cast their ballots. In early voting alone, 51 percent of registered voters cast a vote. As of 4 p.m. today, the county reported a turnout of 70.7 percent of the county’s 787,000 registered voters. 

So far, voters appear to favor Joe Biden for the presidential race. The Association Press has declared Virginia a win for Biden. 

In Fairfax County, the electorate appears to have loosened its Democratic sway. In 2016, Fairfax County voters went for Hillary Clinton by giving her 63 percent of the vote. President Donald Trump secured just under 30 percent of the total vote in the county. 

But this year, 52 percent of Fairfax County voters favored Biden with a more even split for Trump, according to results from 243 of the county’s 244 precincts. This number reflects votes cast today only.

Sen. Mark Warner (D) is projected to win reelection to a third term, beating out Republican Daniel Gade who had been polling well behind Warner into Election Day. The Association Press called the race at 7 p.m. Reps. Don Beyer (8th District) and Gerry Connolly (11th District) are ahead in their respective districts while incumbent Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District) is currently trailing Republican challenger Aliscia Andrews.

This story will be updated.

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