Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Last week’s Democratic National Convention proved, perhaps surprisingly, that the political process can be well-served, and well done, without all the hoopla that usually frames the selection of a party’s candidate for the presidency. Having watched or participated in national conventions for decades, I found I didn’t miss the balloons, the signs, the funny hats – the souvenir stuff of such events. Without those distractions, you could focus on the words in the speeches themselves, the hope and the warnings alike.

Food for thought, definitely, and a galvanizing call to action. The 2020 election will determine the direction of our nation for many years —unity and hope working together to maintain and improve our democracy, or more dystopia, lying, buffoonery, self-aggrandizement, and amorality that are the hallmarks of the current administration.

I was tempted to mute the roll call of the states, thinking it would be dull. It was anything but! It had a flavor that highlighted the essence of this nation – out of many, one. No “flyover” states here; viewers got a quick schooling, minute by minute, about what makes this nation unique —its diversity in people and geography, in old traditions and new cultures. There was no question what the final result of the roll call votes would be. Former Vice President Joe Biden easily won the nomination over independent Senator Bernie Sanders, but the virtual tour reinforced what is at stake in this election — the soul, and future, of the nation.

As the nation prepares to vote, the vote itself is the subject of a lot of chaos and misinformation. Mr. Trump insists that voting by mail is inherently fraudulent and is attempting to hobble the United States Postal Service by cutting funding and staff. The Postal Service is one of the oldest and most popular agencies in this country, relied upon by tens of millions of residents in daily life. Until now, inciting nationwide fear and mistrust was not an approach used by occupants of the White House.

Despite attempts to de-legitimize this year’s election process, several basic facts are important to remember. Election Day is Tuesday, November 3. Virginia polling places will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., just like always. If you wish to vote by mail, you can apply for an absentee ballot (ballots are not sent automatically; you must submit an application). You can apply now, but the Electoral Board will not send out ballots until September 18.

That also is the day that early voting/absentee in-person voting begins at the Office of Elections, 12000 Government Center Parkway in Fairfax. Fairfax County also will operate 14 satellite locations for in-person absentee voting, including the Mason District Governmental Center, but those locations will not be open for voting until Wednesday, October 14. Voting hours at satellite locations will be from 1 until 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Last day to vote at a satellite location is Saturday, October 31.

Drop-off collections boxes for ballots are not permitted in Virginia but, in the special session of the Virginia General Assembly, Governor Ralph Northam proposed allowing drop off ballot boxes in each jurisdiction. As I write this column, the legislature has not acted on the proposal, but having drop boxes at the satellite voting sites would be beneficial for those who are concerned about the Postal Service right now.

“Vote early and often” is an old Chicago gag, but voting early is no joke. It’s safe, it’s quick, and it’s legal. Whether by mail, in-person absentee, or at your polling place on Election Day, VOTE!

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at