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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Friday Morning Notes

Northam to Extend School Year into Summer — Gov. Ralph Northam will announce a plan to extend the school year into the summer today. N details have been released, but the plan is intended to help students catch up. [Inside NOVA]

Reston Association Board to Meet Next Week — RA’s Board of Directors will hold a special online meeting on Monday evening to have a consultation with counsel. [RA]

Food and Coat Drives Set for Tomorrow in Reston — Cornerstones’ Coat Closet is accepting winter items from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at the North County Government Center while Stuff the Bus will have buses parked at the center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for donations. [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston’s North County Governmental Center is one of the most popular spots for early voting in Fairfax County.

While turnout through the county — and country — is high, the Reston location has seen one of the highest turnouts of the county’s 13 satellite voting locations.

Overall, voters are coming out in droves in the county. So far, 301,000 ballots have been cast in total — almost more than 2.5 times more than the total number of absentee votes cast in 2016, according to county officials.

More than 7,300 ballots have been cast at the North County Governmental Center followed by about 6,100 ballots at the Herndon Fortnightly Library and 1,400 at Great Falls Library, which is only open on Saturdays and opened for voting on Oct. 17.

County officials caution that wait times are still long.

“It takes 25 minutes or much longer depending on the place, day and time when voting,” said county spokesperson Brian Worthy.

The county has added two extra hours for early voting tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday. The change applies to 13 early voting sites, which typically open at 11 a.m. The hours at the Fairfax County Government Center remain unchanged.

Other than long waiting times, voting operations have been going relatively smoothly. The county swiftly moved to expand the number of satellite locations following arduous waiting times earlier this month.

While most voters have been masked, some residents have complained about party representatives failing to do so.

Worthy noted that while all individuals are encouraged to wear face coverings, the actions of party representatives cannot be controlled outside the 40-foot limit where campaigning is allowed.

The deadline for early voting this year is 5 p.m. on Oct. 31. Absentee ballots can be delivered by hand until 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 or by mail until noon on Nov. 6.

At this point, Worthy said it’s unclear how this year’s voting procedures will be adapted in future elections.

After the 2020 election is finished, the Fairfax County Office of Elections will look at any lessons learned–but it’s too early to look back in the past since the office is focused on Election Day which is now just [six] days away.”

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Thursday Morning Notes

Public Meeting Tonight on Unfunded Transportation Projects — Fairfax County Department of Transportation officials are seeking public input on nearly 300 transportation projects that are vying for roughly $100 million in funding. Local residents can provide feedback on proposed projects at a public meeting tonight from 7-9 p.m. at the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive). The meeting will include a formal presentation about unfunded projects and a question-and-answer session. [Reston Now]

Be Alert for Deer on Roadways — Police are urging residents to be alert and aware of the potential for deer to dart into the road in front of their vehicles. About half of all deer-vehicle collisions occur during the months of October, November and December, they say. [Fairfax County Police Department]

County Rape Suspect Arrested in West Virginia — Eusebio Romero-Rivera, 48, is believed to have fled the state after a warrant was issued for his arrest on a charge of raping an adult family member in August. The U.S. Marshals Service says Romero-Rivera, a Salvadoran national, had previously been deported and had re-entered the country illegally. [The (Martinsburg, W.Va.) Journal]

Learn About Lyme Disease Tonight — The National Capital Lyme Disease Association will host a panel discussion on the topic tonight, 7:30-9:30 p.m., at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive). [NatCapLyme]

Herndon Welcomes South Korean Guests — Herndon’s mayor and Town Council exchanged gifts, including a ceremonial Town Key, with the South Korean visitors, who were guests of Grandmaster H.K. Lee Academy of TaeKwonDo. [Connection Newspapers]

Local Military Veteran Dies in Texas — Carl Bolle, a 1977 graduate of Herndon High School, served 20 years in the U.S. Army and achieved the rank of sergeant first class. Among his medals, he earned the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. After retiring, he worked as a contractor in the computer intelligence area at Fort Hood for 16 years. [Temple Daily Telegram]

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Residents looking for a place to leave items for Hurricane Harvey relief can do so at Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins’ office at the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive).

According to a statement from Hudgins:

Like you, I am in shock from seeing the devastation Hurricane Harvey has brought to the people of Houston and its surrounding counties. In an effort to help those victimized by this storm, my office [at] the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive Reston, VA) will act as an American Red Cross Drop Off Center from September 5th until noon on September 15th. I ask that items are dropped out during our normal business hours, 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, and are not left in the lobby which may interfere with Police operations.

Hudgins said items that are being sought include new or gently used clothing, shoes, household items and kitchenware. In addition, she said, “there has also be a large cry for unused underwear for those of all ages and diapers.”

“I thank you for your generosity and support of your fellow human,” Hudgins said.

For a full list of items that can be accepted, follow this link.

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Dogs will be the guests of honor Saturday during the “Wag Fest” celebration in Reston.

At the event, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dog lovers will have the opportunity to, among other activities:

  • Learn about the county’s nine dog parks and find out about opportunities to serve as a volunteer dog park monitor
  • Visit with search and rescue dogs from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue’s Virginia Task Force 1
  • See a police K9 unit demonstration
  • Treat their dogs to handmade doggie treats
  • Get a lesson in dog park etiquette and speak with service dog trainers
  • See the latest in doggie goods from local vendors of dog merchandise and services
  • Purchase a dog license

Among the presenters will be the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, Weber’s Pet Supermarket, Gordon’s Grill and Off-Leash K9 Training LLC.

The free event will be held both inside and outside the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive). For more information, call 703-324- 8662 or visit the event’s Facebook page.

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The Fairfax County Planning Department will hear presentations Thursday on the advertised FY 2018-2022 Capital Improvement Program, with a number of Reston projects on the list.

The largest local project in the plan is the reconfiguration and redevelopment of Reston Town Center North, which includes replacing and redeveloping the North County Human Services Center, as well as the Reston Regional Library and Embry Rucker Shelter. An indoor recreation center is also expected to be part of the project.

From the plan:

Reston Town Center North (Infrastructure and Blocks 7 & 8) (Hunter Mill District): Approximately $76,000,000 is proposed to rezone and develop the overall master plan that reconfigures and provides integrated redevelopment of approximately 50 acres currently owned by Fairfax County and Inova at Reston Town Center North (south of Baron Cameron Avenue between Town Center Parkway and Fountain Drive), including the replacement of Reston Regional Library, Embry Rucker Shelter, currently on this site, and development of additional facilities to accommodate Human Services needs. The plan maximizes the development potential consistent with the needs of the community and in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan Amendment approved in February 2013.

North County Human Services Center (Hunter Mill District): $125,000,000 to fund a replacement facility for the existing North County Human Services Center located in Reston. The existing facility is within the redevelopment master plan area known as Reston Town Center North which will be reconfigured for an integrated redevelopment consistent with the needs of the community and in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan Amendment approved in February 2013. The proposed North County Human Services Center will also support a consolidation of existing leased facility spaces in the service area into one Human Services site to provide enhanced and integrated multidisciplinary services to residents in the western part of the County.

The 47-acre area is bounded by Baron Cameron Avenue, Fountain Drive, Town Center Parkway and Bowman Towne Drive.

The projects are expected to be paid for by Economic Development Authority bond financing, according to the report. Approximately $10 million will be required in FY2018 to fund the county’s share of the agreement with Inova that will provide for the real estate exchange, as well as design and construction of the campus site infrastructure.

Funding of $12,000,000 was approved as part of the fall 2016 Human Services/Community Development Bond Referendum for the shelter, and $10,000,000 was approved as part of the 2012 Library Bond Referendum for the library.

Also among the five-year plan are the continuation of current plans including the Silver Line expansion, the redevelopment of the Crescent Apartments site at Lake Anne, upgrades to Reston and Fox Mill fire stations, the addition to South Lakes High School, and improvements to Reston Community Center and the natatorium.

The workshop and public hearing on the Capital Improvement Plan will be held Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center.

Reston Town Center North map (2015) via Fairfax County

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Reston’s latest public art piece is being installed at the new Fairfax County North Governmental Center.

Crews have been busy the last two days installing a metal sculpture by Washington, DC, artist Matt Duffy near the entrance of the building, which houses the Fairfax County Police’s Reston District Station and the offices of Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, among others.

The project was commissioned with help from the Initiative for Public Art Reston (IPAR), which also funded the artwork outside the Hyatt Regency Reston.

Duffy was selected from a call for submissions. IPAR said it was looking for a design that reinforced the idea that public art is of value to the community; that public art helps define a community; and that this piece should be an icon or landmark that makes the Governmental Center Building and surrounding area a memorable place.

Duffy, 37, is a graduate of the University of Maryland and holds and MFA from Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Photos courtesy of IPAR

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