An exploration of things to do in Arlington

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Avoid Election Day Lines, Vote In-Person Absentee

Back in 2004, if you got to vote in Arlington on Election Day without having to wait in line for at least half an hour, you were one of the lucky ones. The Green Miles was lucky enough to be at the relatively quiet Lyon Park polling place, but friends in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor who tried to vote either first thing in the morning or after work who waited well over an hour.

The long lines put voters between a rock and a hard place. If you go in the morning and the line is out the door and around the block, do you tell your boss you'll be late? If it's in the evening, do you cancel your evening plans to shiver in line?

Fortunately, you don't have to choose. Arlington County is offering in-person absentee voting at 2100 Clarendon Blvd with extended hours on Thursday and Saturday. You can get all the details in the voter registration office's Arlington County Election 2008 Survival Guide.

I've heard lines can be long on Saturdays as well, but Arlington Young Democrats are hoping to encourage Thursday evening absentee voting with a happy hour this Thursday (Oct. 30) from 5-8pm at King Street Blues in Courthouse. Get voting out of the way early, then enjoy some free appetizers -- sounds like a pretty good deal. (For the record, there are no similar events listed on the Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans website.)

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Blogger ArlingtonNewcomer said...

Just to clarify, you do need a reason to vote absentee. It is a felony to lie on your absentee form so I would not recommend doing so.

However legitimate reasons for voting absentee:
* If you live in Arlington but work outside of Arlington County.
* If you work for Arlington County (we just received a memo from our County Manager telling us we were all supposed to vote absentee because we are all on call on election day and may be pulled into a 12 hr shift).
* If similarly you are on call for some official thing or need to be available to respond to an emergency (part of an Emergency Support Function, public servant, volunteer with an emergency response team, Nurse/DR/Surgeon etc)
*and of course if you will actually be out of town

12:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wait for absentee voting was about 45 minutes yesterday morning.

2:05 PM

Blogger The Green Miles said...

Newcomer, let's be careful with the leaps to warnings about felony charges. Yes, you need to have a reason, and it can be as simple as being out of the county at any point during the day -- but you will not be asked to give one.

The Arlington County Registrar doesn't care what your reason is for being absent, with the Sun Gazette reporting, "[General Registrar Linda] Lindberg said that her office does not question anyone who uses the 'will be absent' reason for seeking an absentee ballot, although those who seek to vote absentee, for that or other legally permissible reasons, does have to sign a form that they are telling the truth on their application."

2:30 PM

Blogger ArlingtonNewcomer said...

My coworker, Ileana has been working at voter registration and on Saturday she witnessed 2 voters being "thrown out" because they were asking each other which lie they should use on their form. They said this right in front of an official from the state office in Richmond and he got mad and made a scene and told everyone in line that its a felony to lie on the form. A few other people in line left after he said this.

That's why I brought it up.

In Fairfax, where I vote, you do need to state your reason on the form you fill out and it asks for specifics about where you will be and during what hours (depending on your reason for being absent). I don't know if you could be vague on the form if you're unsure of exactly where you will be but know you may be absent... maybe so...

2:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


i voted absentee yesterday in arlington. the form asks you to check a box indicating your reason for voting absentee. one of the boxes is something like "absent for business purposes." you're required to check that box and write in the name of your employer, that's it. i specifically asked the poll worker if they wanted to know where i would be (no), how long i would be out of the county (no), or even where my employer is located (no). it could not be easier.

3:05 PM

Blogger The Green Miles said...

I'm kind of glad they got kicked out. If you're discussing how you're going to lie in front of a public official, you're too dumb to vote :)

I work in DC. Reason settled!

3:10 PM

Blogger Melanie said...

There was a bit of a wait towards the end of the day last Thursday, but the AYDs will reward your patience with some BBQ pork or chicken sliders :)

4:02 PM

Anonymous Crystal said...

I just voted absentee at Arlington Court House. I got in line a little bit behind the sign that says "90 min wait from this point", but it actually took over an hour (I arrived at 3:25pm and finished at 4:45pm). By the time I left, the line was even longer. The poll workers told us it had been like that all day and all week. They said there were 100 people in line at 8am.

The wait is all indoors fortunately, but it was a bit warm with all those people in basically a lobby which is normally empty. I am usually cold, but found myself holding my coat, my sweater, and fanning myself.

The poll workers are impressivley organized and efficient at moving the line. Think amusement park lines. I recommend bringing as little as possible to carry since the line is constantly moving and you will get tired of holding your stuff. Those who are mobility impaired etc. were taken to a separate waiting area, but people with babies had to wait in line.

I strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with the ballot in advance so you don't waste time when you get there, and bringing something to read/do in line. At the very least, pick up a free newspaper and sample ballot before coming in. (There were Young Dems handing out sample ballots just outside.) You may also want to share these with people in front of you so that they don't hold up the line either. I did this and everyone was very grateful.

By the way, I had moved within Arlington in late 2006 and never updated my voter registration address, but they said this was not an impediment to voting as long as I moved within the last 4 years. There is a number to call before you go if you are in doubt. Also you don't need any voter cards or IDs or anything, but you do need to know your social security number, address, and date of birth to put on the form.

In the voting room, the poll workers will ask you if you want to vote electronically or by optical scan. Optical scan is basically a piece of paper which you fill out with a pencil and then scan into a machine which counts it. Since everyone in line in front of me chose electronic, they were all waiting for the four electronic voting machines. There was no wait for the four booths setup for filling out the paper ballot. So by opting for paper, I was able to jump out of line, sit while voting (a blessing after over an hour of standing), and best of all, I am assured that my vote can be manually recounted in the case of a question of fraud. Win-win-win if you ask me.

More about optical scan: they don't use fill-in bubbles, but make you draw a single short line to connect a rectangle to a thick arrow next to your candidate. It's very fast and easy. After you've double checked your choices, you're directed to feed it into a scanner machine near the exit, and watch the machine's digitally displayed number increase by one. In case you are wondering, no matter which option you choose, you do not get any receipt or confirmation of who you voted for.

I was so thrilled and relieved when I was finished that I didn't even mind that they were out of "I voted absentee in Arlington" stickers.

10:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I waited over an hour yesterday. I've voted absentee in almost every election since 1992 - because I travel a lot for business and mostly am not here on election day. Next tuesday I'll be in Philly. I've never waited for more than 3 or 4 people in all those elections, usually you just walk right up. I understand people wanting to avoid the lines on election day, but there is a reason for absentee voting - people who will really be absent need it. Don't clog up the lines if you don't have to.

1:30 AM

Anonymous bobArlington said...

Avoid Election Day Lines by waiting in line on some other day. I went on Wednesday and the line was over an hour long. The day before a report came for an hour an half wait.

Not sure who the AYDs are, but as a Vegan, yummy, cant wait for some of that BBQ pork!

1:55 AM


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