Bigger Boat: Fairfax County, VA Planning for 90% Turnout in 2020

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Election officials nationwide are already expecting sky-high voter turnout in 2020, but Virginia’s Fairfax County in the D.C. suburbs is projecting as many as 90% of its voters to cast ballots in next year’s general election. WTOP has more:

Fairfax County, Virginia, could see an unprecedented 90% turnout in the 2020 presidential race, county elections officials predicted this week.

“We are expecting that next year, 2020, will be between 85 and 90%, so we’re ordering a lot of ballots,” Electoral Board Secretary Kate Hanley told county supervisors Tuesday.

Turnout in 2016 was a record 82.5% in the county, far ahead of the statewide average.

The County will provide voters a wide range of voting options and locations to handle the demand:

The county expects to run more in-person absentee voting locations — 13 — to accommodate a likely increase in the number of people casting ballots early under a new law allowing no-excuse absentee voting in Virginia for the first time.

“We are the only jurisdiction in the commonwealth that runs this many alternative locations, satellite locations,” Hanley said.

Between the additional early voting and the expected large turnout on Election Day, the county expects to need about 3,500 elections officers (a job that pays $175 for the day, if you’re available).

Today, the county has more than 744,000 active registered voters. Voter registration typically surges in a presidential election year.

In addition to federal candidates, there could be a number of state constitutional amendments and local bond issues on the ballot.

The projected high turnout is based in part on a surge in this year’s statewide election:

In this year’s races for local and general assembly offices, total turnout surged from 30.3% in the same election four years ago to more than 43% this year.

In November’s election, 20,605 Fairfax County voters cast absentee ballots in-person and 8,704 mailed in ballots.

Planning also includes coordination with different county agencies, including law enforcement – who are occasionally needed when tensions run high:

Hanley emphasized that many different county agencies have to work together to make sure elections run smoothly, including the police department.

“Some of the poll workers had an opportunity outside to call them this year,” she said.

A police report obtained by WTOP details one incident in the parking lot at Cooper Middle School in McLean.

According to the report, a Republican volunteer moved cones and strings placed to reserve parking spots for voters “because he felt that there were cones blocking the parking spaces in front of the Republican tent.”

“He felt they were put there as a tactic to diverge voters from voting a certain way,” the report said.

The man then got into his car and started backing up.

Another man, a Democratic supporter, “saw this and became angry” and went over to the car.

Just as the two men began to argue further, a police officer ran over and broke things up.

“The situation was calmed down once we explained … that the cones were placed there to reserve spots for voters. They have always been placed in this location every year,” the police report said.

Fairfax’s projection, while a decidedly high number, reflects the expectation that 2020 is likely to see record-setting turnout in many communities across the nation. You can bet that election officials across the nation are keenly aware that, like the shark hunters in Jaws, they’re “gonna need a bigger boat.” Stay tuned …

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