The most provocative question raised by the severe poll delays in parts of Fairfax County on Election Day in November was whether the problems resulted from a nefarious plot by the Republican-controlled elections apparatus to discourage voting in Virginia’s largest Democratic county. So it’s frustrating that that concern was precisely the one left unclarified in Tuesday’s bipartisan commission report on how to ensure that such waits don’t happen again. As I reported the week after the Nov. 6 election, there were signs that Republican-appointed elections overseers had been suspiciously slow to approve the appointment of precinct polling officials nominated by the Democrats. A shortage of such officials proved to be a major cause — though not the only one — of the voting delays. At some precincts, people didn’t finish voting until 10 p.m., or three hours after the polls were scheduled to close.
In addition, Fairfax Democrats say budget documents suggest the county elections office in 2012 slashed spending aimed at promoting absentee voting. In 2008, they said, officials nominated by the Democrats spent $36,000 for that purpose.
County elections chief Cameron Quinn, a Republican, responded that her office “very aggressively” disseminated information about absentee voting and other topics. But she said she could not “accurately assess” what was done four years earlier.
The commission found that a substantial drop in absentee voting from 2008 contributed to the long lines in November.