The Washington Post

Tens of thousands voted absentee in NoVa

The absentee voting in Alexandria and Arlington County this election cycle has been robust, to say the least. Election officials won’t count the votes until Tuesday night. But they’re counting the number of ballots that are arriving, and thousands of voters opted to get ahead of Tuesday’s crowds by doing their civic duty early.

On Saturday alone, more than 3,500 Arlingtonians voted absentee, in person. About 30,000 will have cast absentee ballots before Election Day, including mail-in absentee ballots, registrar Linda Lindberg estimates, down about 4,000 from 2008. Some 80,000 to 90,000 Arlington voters have weighed in on county races in 2004 and 2008, so this absentee total could be a substantial chunk of those who exercise the franchise.

In the smaller jurisdiction of Alexandria, where a competitive City Council election is raging, registrar Tom Parkins expects about 17,000 absentee votes to be counted, once today and tomorrow’s mail is delivered. That’s ahead of 2004, when the city began accepting e-mailed absentee ballots from military absentee voters.

Both registrars warned that the mail is still coming in, and neither will know the exact number of absentees until it’s time to tally up the votes Tuesday night. Absentee voters have until 7 p.m. that day to deliver their ballots to the registrars.

Virginians vote absentee, not early. That means they had to have one of the approved excuses in addition to providing identification. Across the Old Dominion, it looks like absentee voting rose slightly.

“I think there are a lot of people who got a little confused, with all that’s going on in D.C. and Maryland,” Lindberg said. “You don’t have a right to vote early — we vote absentee here.”

Both election offices expect that counting ballots Tuesday night may take a bit longer than usual, both because of the length of the ballot and because of the volume of absentees.

“You’ll have to be patient,” Parkins said. “Accuracy first, then speed.”

Patricia Sullivan covers government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria. She worked in Illinois, Florida, Montana and California before joining the Post in November 2001.



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