Absentee Voting Attracts Crowds

Polling Place Sign

Voting Place Sign, by Jonathan

As we close in on the election next Tuesday, the press has been having a field day with the “early voting” going on across the country.  Not to be left out, and having to file an absentee ballot myself, I decided to see just what was happening in Arlington.

First, all the registrars wanted me to point out that no one in the area has “Early Voting”.   Maryland, Virginia, and the District all provide for Absentee Ballots, which means you can only vote early if you have a valid reason.   Both the District and Virginia provide for absentee voting in person or by mail.  In Maryland, you can only vote Absentee by mail.  And that deadline has already passed, so if you missed the absentee ballot in Maryland your only chance is Tuesday.  (Don did a great job of covering all the details in his previous post, so I won’t belabor the point.)

So, if you want to vote in person, when should you go?

The answer is “ask for two hours off, and go over right now.”

Early Voting Line in Arlington
Absentee Voting Line in Arlington, by Jonathan

I submitted my ballot in Arlington yesterday, where I found the line there was 45 minutes long.  I asked the registrar and several of the staff if that was normal, and they said yes.  The line starts before they even arrive, so there is no good time to show up.  The 45 minute line continues pretty much all day.  The poll workers have things pretty much in hand for the week, and the line moves along.  But they recommend you bring a book, iPod, or other distraction for the wait.

Saturday, they reported, is going to be much worse.  Last Saturday, in the rain, they had lines over 90 minutes long for the entire day.  That was the week before the election, and they expect things to be even crazier this weekend.  The registrar said they were processing about 1100 ballots each weekday, and expected to do twice that on Saturday.

Arlington County - 45 minute wait
Wait Time From This Point, by Jonathan

The registrar politely asked that everyone who could should try to get in before the Saturday rush.

Voting hours for Wednesday – Thursday are 8 am to 7 pm.  Friday is 8 am to 5 pm.  Saturday is 8:30 am to 5 pm, and anyone in line at 5 pm will be able to vote.

Fairfax Seal
Fairfax Seal, by Jonathan

How about Fairfax?  So I took a drive out to see how Fairfax was handling things.  The assistant registrar out there told me that they had lines of only 15-20 minutes during this week.  And Fairfax has eight other absentee voting locations, so there are multiple choices all with short lines during the week.

Fairfax is also expecting a crush of voters this weekend.  They expected 45-60 minute waits at the main office, and waits could be up to 90 minutes at the Springfield center.  Not surprisingly, they also recommended that voters try to get to the offices before Saturday, and avoid the rush.  Alternatively, the more distant locations will have shorter lines, but the longer drive might eat up the saved time.

Voting hours for the Government Center location are Wednesday – Friday are 8 am to 8 pm.  Saturday is 9 am to 5 pm.  Anyone in line at 5 pm on Saturday will be able to vote.  Satellite locations are open Wednesday – Friday 1 pm to 8 pm , and Saturday 9 am tp 5 pm.

I didn’t have a chance to stop by Alexandria, but i have heard it is a lot like Arlington.  I’ll post an update tomorrow if I can get in touch with them.  Alexandria, like Arlington, has only one location for Absentee Voting,

Voting hours for Wednesday – Friday are 8 am to 5 pm, and Saturday will also be 8 am to 5 pm.  Anyone in line at 5 pm will be able to vote.

Jonathan Baker

came to DC, left for San Francisco, and then realized he couldn’t live without a daily fix of politics and came back. When not traveling to crazy locations, he speaks and writes for a major software house in CA.

8 thoughts on “Absentee Voting Attracts Crowds

  1. I voted early in arlington, weeks ago, since Matt and I will be out of town on the 4th and there was no line whatsoever. I guess you should try and be an early bird to early voting, especially in such a politically active area.

    Another benefit to early voting, I’ve heard, is that the campaigns get wind that you’ve already voted and can stop pouring resources into you and it frees up their time and efforts to people who haven’t already acted.

  2. I voted a little before 11am this morning, after standing in line for an hour. One really interesting thing about voting in-person absentee is that you get the chance to vote on a paper ballot, something that the election-day voters won’t get to do. The line was orderly and moved quickly, and the whole thing was much less painless than I expect election day would be!

  3. I also voted absentee in Arlington the first week it was open and the whole process took at most 5 min.

    I walked by 2100 Clarendon yesterday and was amazed at how many people were in line. If there’s a big line for absentee voting, I can’t imagine what this Tuesday will look like.

  4. @Tom M. It’s gonna be big. It guess there is enough of a reason, be it the war, the economy, a historical barrier is going to be broken, etc. There is a reason for voting this year that hasn’t been there in previous years in recent memory.

  5. That’s what you can do if you got your application in before the deadline earlier this week. And, if you did make this deadline and received an absentee ballot by mail, you can fill in your ballot (and have it witnessed) and then drop it off at the Registrar’s office. This guarantees they receive it. But if you missed the deadline for a mailed absentee ballot, voting in person is your only other choice.

  6. My experience, going in at the start of week two, was similar to Tom M’s. There were as many workers there as there were voters. I’m glad I did it when I did.