Vienna Voters Complain of Irregularities at Polls

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 6, 2007

There are elections every year in Vienna, and they usually unfold with "Groundhog Day" predictability.

About a quarter of the central Fairfax County town's 10,000 registered voters come to the polls and return the incumbents to office. And that's what happened Tuesday as three members of the six-person town council -- Maud F. Robinson, George E. Lovelace and Daniel M. Delinger -- easily defeated two challengers, Susan Yancey Stich and Deborah T. Brehony.

The aftermath of the balloting, however, has been anything but routine. It has been marked by a series of complaints about the conduct of the town's longtime election officers. There have also been questions about their unusual selection process, which includes vetting by the town clerk and incumbent council members.

One election officer assigned to a voting machine at the Vienna Community Center, the town's sole polling place, was removed by county election officials after a voter complained that she was attempting to interfere with her decisions.

Stella D. Matalas wrote in a formal complaint to Fairfax officials that when she stepped up to the booth, an election officer identified by officials as Rhoda Stevens said she needed to vote for three candidates "or the new people will get in."

Matalas said that when she finished voting, she told Stevens that she shouldn't be trying to influence the election.

"She said she was only doing what she was told, and that was to tell people to vote for three," Matalas wrote.

Stevens, reached at home last week, said she had no comment.

It's not clear what was meant by "vote for three," although it theoretically could work in favor of the incumbents because there were three of them and two challengers.

Margaret K. Luca, secretary of the Fairfax County Electoral Board, which runs Vienna's elections, said Stevens was under no instructions to tell voters to make three selections. No minimum number is required.

"You can cast an empty ballot if you want," said Luca, who was at the community center Tuesday and ordered Stevens's removal. "Frankly, I'm not sure exactly what was said, but under any circumstances, it was not acceptable," she said. "There is no situation in which anybody would be in a position to say that" to a voter.

Tuesday's voting generated other complaints, many from supporters of Brehony and Stich.

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