Weather Could Affect Turnout For Board Chairman Election

By Amy Gardner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Winter weather could dampen participation in today's special election for chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, injecting even more uncertainty into a contest already expected to attract low voter turnout.

Treacherous conditions could cause election officials to postpone the election, but that scenario is exceedingly unlikely, even if county schools are closed or delayed, said Rokey Suleman, Fairfax County's general registrar.

"Right now, VDOT feels this will not be a major event and that schools will be on a normal schedule," Suleman said. "We were planning for every variable. Postponing the election is something that would take a significant weather event."

Forecasters predicted that rain and snow could begin falling by 3 a.m. throughout much of the region, with accumulation of less than a half-inch of snow likely overnight.

Another inch of snow could accumulate today, and temperatures are expected to remain at or slightly above freezing.

Elections with low turnout are hard to predict and can become more a referendum on which candidate attracts more supporters to the polls than on the larger policy issues of the day or partisan leanings of the electorate.

The top contenders in today's election are Democrat Sharon S. Bulova, the vice chairman, and Republican Pat S. Herrity, a relative newcomer to the board. Two independent candidates, Christopher F. DeCarlo and Carey C. Campbell, are also running.

Representatives of the Bulova and Herrity campaigns said they have been offering to drive voters to polling locations in the event of inclement weather.

The greatest potential complication for election workers would occur if Fairfax County schools closed or delayed their opening times. With polls open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- and with more than half the county's 230 voting locations in schools -- school officials and state highway crews must be sure that roads, sidewalks and parking lots adjacent to polling locations are accessible.

Officials would consider postponing the election only in extremely hazardous conditions, said Nancy Rodrigues, head of the State Board of Elections. In that case, the local electoral board would make a recommendation no later than 4 a.m. and notify Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who would make the final decision.

To check the weather and see if polls will be open today, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/metro.

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