Tysons, VA

Wednesday Morning Notes

Vienna Town Councilmembers Announce Reelection Bids — Howard Springsteen, a 12-year veteran of the council, and newcomers Steve Potter and Nisha Patel announced earlier this week that they will seek reelection on May 4, though no candidates have formally filed paperwork yet. [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

CVS to Offer COVID-19 Vaccine in Virginia — “CVS plans to offer COVID-19 vaccine appointments starting Feb. 11 at select locations in Virginia for people eligible in phases 1a and 1b…According to a CVS spokesperson, the list of specific stores for vaccines will be provided on the CVS website as stores receive shipments and appointments become available.” [Patch]

Police Charge Maryland Man for Using Stolen Identities to Buy Cars — “Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau charged Nickolas Mathis, 36, of Maryland, with multiple felony offenses following a serial crime spree involving the fraudulent purchases of several automobiles at dealerships in Fairfax, Tysons and Chantilly.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

Tysons Start-Up Seeks to Create 5G Network — “Tysons satellite communications company Omnispace LLC has raised $60 million in fresh funding…The startup, founded in 2012, aims to create seamless 5G connectivity to companies that operate across urban and more rural areas across the world.” [Washington Business Journal]

Virginia Senate Passes Bill Requiring Schools to Have In-Person and Virtual Learning Options — “Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, a co-sponsor of the measure, said the nearly yearlong stretch of remote learning has frustrated families, including his own, and threatened the loss of a generation of students.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors praised election workers and volunteers yesterday (Tuesday) for their work on the 2020 general election, which presented local voters with new opportunities and unprecedented obstacles.

With voters turning out in record numbers, Fairfax County’s election staff had to adapt to the logistical challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic on top of implementing a slew of new state laws to improve voting accessibility, including the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting and the elimination of photo identification requirements.

“There’s no doubt we had an amazing year,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said. “[The election staff] came through with flying colors, and we definitely have to recognize that and appreciate that.”

While this year’s 79.4% turnout rate fell short of the 82.5% high mark set in 2016, the 605,023 ballots cast for the Nov. 3 general election were the most in Fairfax County history. There were also about 80,000 more active registered voters than in 2016 and only 25,667 inactive voters, compared to 64,041 in 2016.

Fairfax County Electoral Board Secretary Katherine Hanley confirmed again in a presentation to the Board of Supervisors that absentee voting drove turnout this year, with only 186,253 people voting in person on Election Day, an even lower number than election officials predicted.

By contrast, there were 414,381 absentee votes. The county received 222,003 by-mail absentee ballots, including approximately 85,000 that were returned through a drop box, and 192,398 people voted in person before Election Day at one of 15 early voting locations.

Fairfax County also had 4,389 provisional ballots.

According to Hanley, the Fairfax County Office of Elections contacted 2,113 voters about small issues with their mail ballots. 1,315 of those voters fixed their ballots, a 63% cure rate.

One thing that surprised election officials was the 17,633 ballots that were either surrendered or goldenrod, meaning that it was never received, lost, or left at home by the voter.

“That’s a much bigger number than we thought there would be,” Hanley said.

Because COVID-19 both triggered and coincided with so many changes in Virginia’s election policies, it is difficult to tell whether 2020 was an anomaly or a harbinger of long-lasting shifts in voter behavior, Hanley says. Read More

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600,238 voters – or 78.8% – of Fairfax County’s 761,573 active registered voters participated in this year’s general election, more than two-thirds of them absentee in Virginia’s first election with no-excuse absentee voting.

Based on unofficial results from the Fairfax County Office of Elections, that likely sets a record for the most votes cast in an election in Fairfax County history, but the turnout rate falls short of the 2012 and 2016 general elections, which both had rates of 80.5% and 82.5%, respectively.

“This election year was unlike any other we have ever seen,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “Our turnout throughout the process was truly encouraging and spoke to our residents’ faith in the democratic process.”

Though precinct-level results reveal some differences, Fairfax County voters as a whole clearly favored Democrats in this year’s election, supporting Joe Biden over incumbent President Donald Trump and reelecting Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Don Beyer (8th District), Rep. Jennifer Wexton (10th District), and Rep. Gerry Connolly (11th District) to Congress.

Of the county’s nine districts, Hunter Mill had the highest voter turnout for the 2020 general election.

More than 81% of Hunter Mill District’s 93,193 active registered voters cast a ballot in the Nov. 3 election, either in person on Election Day or absentee. The district is also the only one in the county with over 90,000 active registered voters as of Oct. 30.

Springfield District had the second highest turnout at 80.8%, followed by Dranesville in terms of the percentage of voters who participated in the election (80.1%) or by Sully in terms of the total number of votes cast (71,082 to the 70,186 ballots recorded by Dranesville).

Springfield saw 23,333 in-person Election Day voters, the most in the county, while Hunter Mill voters cast the most absentee ballots with 55,134, though absentee voting surpassed in-person Election Day voting in all districts.

The gap between absentee voting and in-person Election Day voting was particularly wide in Providence District, where 50,814 of the district’s 87,100 active registered voters cast in in-person or by-mail absentee ballot and only 17,117 people voted on Election Day.

While the election results will not be official until they are certified on Nov. 16, all ballots are now in after the deadline for absentee ballots to be returned came at noon on Nov. 6.

The City of Falls Church, which held a special election to fill a vacant city council seat, saw a record turnout with 8,879 votes, though the 83.3% turnout rate fell short of the record 87.4% of active voters who cast ballots in the 2012 general election.

After Election Day, the city counted an additional 68 absentee ballots from drop boxes, by mail, and as federal write-ins, and officials accepted 25 provisional ballots, according to Falls Church City director of elections and general registrar David Bjerke.

Debora Schantz-Hiscott won the city council special election with 54% of the vote.

“We have a lot of work ahead. But I am excited for this opportunity,” Schantz-Hiscott said in a guest post for the Falls Church News-Press. “As we face tremendous uncertainty in our nation, it will take a village to see us through this crisis. Here in Falls Church City, I am certain we will rise to this occasion together.”

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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Friday Morning Notes

Tysons Transit Prioritized by State — “The top five transit routings, based on preliminary analyses, are Bethesda to Dunn Loring via Tysons Corner; Bethesda to Tysons West; Gaithersburg to Tysons West;  Bethesda to Tysons East; and Germantown to Tysons West.” [InsideNova]

Vienna Torn Between Biden and Trump Precincts on Election Day — “At Vienna area polling places on Election Day, totals for Biden and President Donald Trump were closer in a few precincts, and Trump received more votes at the Flint Hill, Vienna #1, Vienna #2, Wolftrap, Thoreau, Oakton and Nottoway precincts.” [Patch]

Vienna Elementary School Teacher Adrienne McCormick Dies — “Of Adrienne’s many accomplishments, her 19 years as a teacher at Stenwood Elementary was her proudest–here she helped to build a village, a community that continues to serve the students she so loved.” [Patch]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Fairfax County voters approved the sale of $441 million worth of bonds to fund a full slate of pending capital projects during the 2020 general election on Tuesday (Nov. 3).

This year’s ballot featured four separate bond referendums that asked Fairfax County voters to authorize:

Though vote counts won’t be finalized until tomorrow’s noon deadline for absentee ballots, all four referendums passed with ease. The health and human services bonds garnered the most support with 76.5% “yes” votes, followed by parks with 72.4% and transportation with 67.7%. Just under two-thirds of voters (66.1%) supported the public library bonds.

The public library bonds include $23 million for Fairfax County’s planned redevelopment of the Patrick Henry Community Library in Vienna.

Originally built in 1971, Patrick Henry Library operates close to the level of a small regional library as one of the busiest community branches in the Fairfax County Public Library system, according to the county’s FY 2021-2025 adopted capital improvements program.

“Renovation is required to upgrade building systems and infrastructure that are well beyond the end of their life cycle and meet current and future operational needs,” the CIP said. “The building is one of the oldest, resulting in an antiquated layout that does not adequately reflect modern library design and usage.”

The new library bond funds will help expand Patrick Henry Library by roughly 7,000 square feet to a 21,000-square-foot building, permitting more public seating and a larger children’s section.

The renovation will also involve the construction of a 213-space parking facility that the county is working on with the Town of Vienna as part of an agreement approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in July.

Fairfax County’s 2020 parks bond includes $100 million for the Fairfax County Park Authority and $12 million to pay for the county’s share of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority’s capital program, which focuses on resource protection, facility improvements, and the expansion of open space, trails, and recreational opportunities.

Tysons area projects covered by the Fairfax County Park Authority’s bonds funding include an upgrade of McLean Central Park in accordance with the park’s master plan and a renovation of the Providence RECenter to improve its efficiency.

The park bonds also have funds for design advancement for McLean’s Salona Park, even though the project was put on hold in September until the park authority develops a master plan for Langley Fork Park.

Photo via Google Maps

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While Virginia’s U.S. Congressional delegation looks like it will remain largely unchanged after the 2020 general election, voters approved a state constitutional amendment that will reshape the process for how their representatives will be chosen in the future.

One of two statewide referendums on the ballot, Constitutional Amendment 1 shifts responsibility for drawing congressional and state legislative district lines from the Virginia General Assembly to a redistricting commission made up of eight legislators and eight appointed citizens.

According to the Virginia Department of Elections unofficial returns, Amendment 1 passed with 65.91% of voters casting their ballot in favor of it, though a few precincts had not yet reported results by Wednesday night and the results will not be official until they are certified on Nov. 16.

Fairfax County approved the measure by a smaller margin than the overall state, with 53.69% of voters supporting it and 46.31% opposing.

“From the start, this movement has been about putting the voices of citizens above politicians and political parties. Today, Virginia voters spoke loud and clear in approving Amendment 1,” Fair Maps VA executive director Brian Cannon and campaign co-chairs Wyatt Durrette and Bobby Vassar said in a joint statement on Wednesday (Nov. 4).

Fair Maps VA is a nonprofit advocacy organization formed in July by OneVirginia2021, the coalition of policymakers and citizens that spearheaded the redistricting commission proposal.

With Virginia set to redraw district lines next year, Fair Maps VA says the proposed commission will combat partisan gerrymandering by giving members of the public “a seat at the table” instead of leaving redistricting exclusively in the hands of legislators, as previously dictated by the Constitution of Virginia.

The General Assembly will vote on new district maps, but it will not be able to change them. If new maps are not approved by set deadlines, the Supreme Court of Virginia will draw them.

“In creating a bipartisan redistricting commission…[voters] said they want a transparent redistricting process,” Cannon, Durrette, and Vassar said. “They want civil rights protections to be added to the state constitution for the very first time. And they said that they want to end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia once and for all.” Read More

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As of Thursday morning, the future of the country is still up in the air, with votes in key states still being decided and the outcome of the election is unclear.

On the sidewalks and Slack channels around the area, the election seems to be on everyone’s mind. The area’s votes have already been counted, with areas like Tysons, Merrifield, Herndon and much of Reston going for former Vice President Joe Biden while McLean and Great Falls voted for incumbent President Donald Trump.

Whichever side you picked, you might have a few more grey hairs by Thursday morning. With that being said, Tysons Reporter wanted to check in and see how folks in the area are feeling about the election.

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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.

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.

The Associated Press projected by 8:30 p.m. that Biden would win Virginia and that Warner and Beyer would be reelected.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Updated at 2:55 p.m. — Voter turnout in the City of Falls Church has now topped 80% with residents turning in 8,573 ballots total as of 2 p.m., according to city elections officials.

The city is seeing its highest voter turnout ever with this year’s election easily surpassing the 7,860 votes cast in 2016, which previously saw the most number of votes, according to David Bjerke, the director of elections and general registrar for the City of Falls Church.

The 87.4% of active registered voters who cast ballots in 2012 remains the city’s high watermark for the percent of voters participating in a general election, but with 80.1% of voters having already cast their ballots by 2 p.m., 2020 could still potentially set a new record in terms of percentage as well as numbers.

The vast majority of ballots that both Falls Church City and Fairfax County have received so far were cast before Election Day after early voters turned out in droves, thanks to state legislation permitting no-excuse absentee voting took effect this year.

The City of Falls Church has received 7,552 absentee ballots, including ones delivered by mail and dropboxes, while in Fairfax County, more than 404,000 votes were cast early, according to county election officials.

As of 2 p.m., Fairfax County was seeing an estimated 16.1% voter turnout for Election Day. With absentee ballots constituting about 51% of the county’s voting population, that means 67.1% of the county’s 787,000 registered voters have cast ballots in this year’s general election.

Despite concerns about voter intimidation in the lead-up to Election Day, Fairfax County public information officer Brian Worthy said this morning that the county has not experienced any issues with voting at its 244 precincts, and turnout has been “light as expected” due to the high levels of early voters.

“There are no lines that I’ve heard of, although I witnessed a very small one around 6 a.m. at the Fairfax County Government Center,” Worthy said. “No lines now and very few voters.”

Photo via Fairfax County government/Twitter

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After long lines for early voting, Election Date is finally here. so far, the county has unofficially reported more than 399,600 votes cast. County officials say this is 70 percent of the total votes cast in the 2016 presidential election and 50 percent of registered county voters have already cast their ballots. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know before you head to the polls today.

Casting Your Ballot

All polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout Fairfax County. An acceptable form of identification is required. Voters are encouraged to wear masks or face coverings and remain socially distanced using markers placed outside polling places to help voters stand six feet apart. Note that several Fairfax County Park Authority polling sites will be open only to voters today, including the Spring Hill RECenter in McLean and the Oak Marr RECenter in Oakton.

Voters can return mail-in ballots at a ballot drop-off box, which will be available at every polling place today (Tuesday). A 24-hour box outside the Fairfax County Government Center will be available until 7 p.m. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked by Nov. 3. If you plan to use a drop-off box, make sure the “B” envelope is inside your returning mail envelope. Further instructions, which will help the county process ballots faster, are available on the county’s website.

What’s On Your Ballot

The following is a breakdown of what to expect on your ballot. Sample ballots are available online.

President and Vice President

  • Joseph R. Biden, President and Kamala D. Harris, Vice President: Democrat
  • Donald J. Trump, President and Michael R. Pence, Vice President – Republican
  • Jo Jorgensen, President and Jeremy F. “Spike” Cohen, Vice President – Libertarian

Member, United States Senate

  • Mark R. Warner – Democrat
  • Daniel M. Gade – Republican

Member House of Representatives, 11th District

  • Gerry E. “Gerry” Connolly – Democrat
  • Manga A. Anantatmula – Republican

The City of Fairfax

City residents will vote in a special election to fill one seat on the city council that was vacated when longtime Councilmember Daniel Sze died from cancer in July. Tysons Reporter interviewed each of the three candidates vying for the council seat:

Constitutional Amendments

Amendment #1 proposes creating a redistricting commission with eight General Assembly members and eight state citizens to draw congressional and state legislative districts. The General Assembly would vote on the new maps without proposing any changes. If the commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to enact districts by set deadlines, the responsibility of drawing districts would fall on the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Amendment #2 is written as follows: Should an automobile or pickup truck that is owned and used primarily by or for a veteran of the United States armed forces or the Virginia National Guard who has a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be free from state and local taxation?

Bond Questions

Public libraries: Shall Fairfax County, Virginia, contract a debt, borrow money, and issue bonds in addition to the public library facilities bonds previously authorized, in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $90,000,000 for the purpose of providing funds, with any other available funds, to finance the cost to provide public library facilities, including the construction, reconstruction, enlargement, and equipment of existing and additional library facilities and the acquisition of necessary land?

Transportation bonds: Shall Fairfax County, Virginia, contract a debt, borrow money, and issue bonds, in addition to the transportation improvements and facilities bonds previously authorized, in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $160,000,000 for the purpose of financing Fairfax County’s share, under the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Compact, of the cost of constructing, reconstructing, improving, and acquiring transportation improvements and facilities, including capital costs of land, transit facilities, rolling stock, and equipment in the Washington metropolitan area?

Community health and human services bonds: Shall Fairfax County, Virginia, contract a debt, borrow money, and issue bonds, in addition to the human services facilities bonds previously authorized, in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $79,000,000 for the purpose of providing funds, with any other available funds, to finance the cost to provide community health and human services facilities, including the construction, reconstruction, enlargement, and equipment of existing and additional community health and human services facilities and the acquisition of necessary land?

Parks and parks facilities bondsShall Fairfax County, Virginia, contract a debt, borrow money, and issue bonds, in addition to the parks and park facilities bonds previously authorized, in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $112,000,000 for the following purposes: (i) $100,000,000 principal amount to finance the Fairfax County Park Authority’s cost to acquire, construct, reconstruct, develop, and equip additional parks and park facilities, to preserve open-space land, and to develop and improve existing parks and park facilities; and (ii) $12,000,000 principal amount to finance Fairfax County’s contribution to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to acquire, construct, reconstruct, develop, and equip parks and park facilities?

Other Items of Note

Voters should call the Fairfax County Police Department’s non-emergency number at 703-691-2131 to report any disruptions to voting. The following activities are prohibited by state law:

  • Loitering, campaigning or congregating within 40 feet of a polling place’s entrance
  • Using a loudspeaker within 300 feet of a polling place
  • Falsely assuming or exercising the powers, duties or functions of any county, city, state, or federal law-enforcement officer.

Results will be available on the Virginia Department of Elections’ website. Absentee ballots may be accepted until noon on Friday, Nov. 6.

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