Dear Chairman McKay and Board of Supervisors,
Since early voting began in mid-September, Fairfax County residents have stood in lines of four hours and longer to vote. We were told that once satellite locations opened in October, the lines would become manageable. However, this is not the case, and now we have many lines averaging four hours all over the county. The Governor signed legislation in the summer allowing for no excuse, early, in-person voting to reduce density on Election Day and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But a failure to have effectively planned for the increased voter turnout has resulted in far too few votes cast early. Because of less density and slower voting processes required in response to COVID, we could experience longer lines on Election Day, creating further impediments to voting. Those whose health and access to the polls will be most impacted by Election Day voting are likely to come from marginalized communities. Likewise, those most likely to be disenfranchised will be marginalized communities.
The right to vote is the most fundamental of any in our democracy. After hearing the testimony presented to the Electoral Board on Saturday October 17, and listening to the board members’ responses to citizens’ legitimate complaints, we are concerned that without outside pressure, the Electoral Board will not take adequate action to remedy the problems with early in-person voting.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration has determined that any wait time to cast a ballot that exceeds 30 minutes indicates something is amiss that must be corrected. In light of this guidance, the Executive Committee of the Fairfax NAACP requests that the Electoral Board, in coordination with the Board of Supervisors, institute the following changes to accommodate early in-person voting in Fairfax County:
- Increase voting hours at each location
- Hire more election workers for non-credentialed jobs to support extended hours, relieving credentialed staff to focus on poll-related activities
- Ensure that every available room is used at each satellite location
- Implement IT and hardware solutions to wiring requirements to expand capacity
- Work with the planning office/magisterial district office, or responsible parties to identify most efficient traffic patterns at satellite locations.
- Create an easy to understand wayfinding system to help direct voters to the proper queue, i.e. to find ballot dropbox or in- person voting lines.
- Create a separate line for the 14% of individuals bringing absentee ballots to be spoiled, a process the Electoral Board claims takes 3 to 4 times as long as regular voting
- Expand the registration space at each location to accommodate the initial sign-in before voters reach the polling office, thereby moving people through the line faster.
Although the time remaining before the end of early voting is running short, we urge you and the Board of Supervisors to take immediate action and demand that the Electoral Board do everything possible to correct what can be corrected. Although that Board explains that it devoted many resources to mail-in ballots, which have gone well, its failure to have anticipated and effectively planned for unprecedented in-person turnout is inexcusable. We would like a full audit of the Board’s protocols that may have resulted in voter disenfranchisement in Fairfax County.
It should be noted that the 2021 elections may be equally impacted by COVID-19; to avoid similar problems, the Electoral Board must rectify these errors so they never happen again.
It is the Board of Supervisors’ duty to hold the Electoral Board accountable. Although we acknowledge that planning for an election with new state mandates during a pandemic is a colossal undertaking, that is what the Electoral Board was required to do. If you do not do your utmost to demand the Electoral Board change the course of voting for the remaining days before the election, thousands of Fairfax County voters could be disenfranchised. One disenfranchised voter would be too many.
As always, we stand ready to work with you to ensure that every voter gets a chance to vote without impediment.
The Fairfax NAACP Executive Committee