Updated at 11:00 p.m. — Falls Church Education Foundation executive director Debora Schantz-Hiscott appears likely to win the Falls Church City Council’s open seat based on preliminary results from the City of Falls Church Office of Voter Registration and Elections.
Schantz-Hiscott carried 47.5 percent of the city’s total vote after winning two out of three wards and attracting 48 percent of the 7,556 absentee ballots that had been counted on Tuesday.
Falls Church City Housing Commissioner Joshua Shokoor came in second with 27.3 percent, edging out Schantz-Hiscott to win the Third Ward, while community activist Simone Pass Tucker trailed with 11.6 percent of the vote.
The special election for the Falls Church City Council seat, which was left vacant by the late Councilmember Daniel Sze’s death from cancer in July, was part of a packed general election ballot that saw an unprecedented amount of early voting, enabled by Virginia General Assembly legislation that permitted no-excuse absentee voting.
The City of Falls Church set a record for the number of ballots cast with 8,786 votes easily surpassing the previous high of 7,860 ballots from 2016.
However, barring a massive influx of post-Election Day absentee ballots, the 82.5 percent of active, registered voters who turned out this year falls short of 2016, which had an 85.4 percent turnout. The 87.4 percent of active voters who cast ballots in the 2012 general election remains Falls Church City’s high mark for voter turnout in terms of percentages, according to Falls Church City elections director and registrar David Bjerke.
70.4 percent of Falls Church City voters turned in their ballots before Election Day. By the day’s end, the city’s central absentee precinct, which collects all absentee votes, was responsible for 7,556 ballots. The city’s three wards reported 1,230 ballots combined.
Fairfax County saw a similarly high rate of early voting with 51 percent of its 77.5 percent voter turnout coming before Election Day. As of 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the county office of elections had received 404,254 by-mail and in-person absentee ballots.
Turnout Update as of 4 p.m.
✔️ Today: 19.7%
✔️ Early Voting: 51%
✔️ Estimated Total: 70.7% of 787,000 registered voters in Fairfax County
— Fairfax County Votes (@fairfaxvotes) November 3, 2020
Because Virginia will accept absentee ballots until noon on Nov. 6 as long as they are postmarked on or before Nov. 3, state and local election officials emphasized that the reported results for this year’s election are unofficial until they are certified on Nov. 16.
Based on Election Day results from its 243 precincts, which have now all reported, Fairfax County voters generally favored Democrats with presidential candidate Joe Biden, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Reps. Don Beyer (8th District) and Gerry Connolly (11th District) each leading their respective races among county voters.
Only voters in the 10th District, which encompasses parts of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, were leaning Republican with Aliscia Andrews holding a lead over incumbent Rep. Jennifer Wexton, though as of 10:40 p.m., the vote totals in Fairfax County’s unofficial returns do not yet include absentee ballots.
Fairfax County public information officer Brian Worthy told Tysons Reporter on Tuesday that the county was anticipating around 40,000 absentee ballots to remain uncounted by 11:00 p.m., when the Virginia Department of Elections is instructing local officials to report absentee results. That number includes ballots put in drop boxes on Election Day as well as any ballots that are still being returned by mail.
“Ballots must [be] postmarked today but will be counted if they’re received by the Office of Elections by noon on this Friday,” Worthy said.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott