Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

The sanctity of the ballot is well-established in this country. The security of the ballot also was assumed to be sacrosanct. Despite reports of occasional errors and late ballots, the modern American voting system is regarded highly as being free and open, and reflecting the will of the electorate, however large or small the turnout. Until now.

Outrageous attempts by the president to cast doubt on the process, the security, and the outcome of the November election are suited more for a petty dictator than the leader of the United States. Sowing doubt and fear about your ballot and whether your choice will be respected may have one of two outcomes: increasing voter turnout, or suppressing the vote. Judging by calls to my office, it’s the former. Tens-of-thousands of absentee ballot applications already are flooding local elections offices, with the first batch of absentee ballots scheduled to be mailed to Fairfax County applicants on September 18. Those same callers, though, express concern about what happens to their completed ballot after they slip it into the return envelope. Mr. Trump’s campaign against the United States Postal Service and mail-in balloting is having his desired effect of chaos and distrust in traditional institutions.

To the rescue, perhaps, is Governor Ralph Northam’s signing, late last week, legislation approving the use of secure absentee ballot drop boxes by each Virginia jurisdiction. As happens with many bills passed in Richmond, there was little clarifying language or guidance, so local electoral boards are scrambling to prepare and circulate information about the location and use of ballot drop boxes. Some reports have noted a scarcity in the manufacture of secure ballot drop boxes, probably not something you can whip up in a home workshop. Recent television reports showed dozens of blue postal boxes being removed and hauled away under the auspices of the new Postmaster General. Reuse? Repurpose? Recycle? Why not? It’s worth a try.
The last day to register to vote in Virginia is Tuesday, Oct. 13 (deadline is 5 p.m. in person; 11:59 p.m. on-line). Early voting begins at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax only on Sept. 18. Absentee in-person voting at satellite locations begins on Wednesday, Oct. 14. The deadline to request an absentee ballot by mail is Friday, Oct. 23, at 5 p.m. Absentee voting at the satellite locations ends on Saturday, Oct.31.

Friday marks the 19th anniversary of the horrible attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Virginia, and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. Thousands of lives were lost, with many local families still grieving the unfathomable loss of loved ones. Many people who died were ordinary folks, going about their daily routines on an amazingly beautiful and sunny day that quickly turned dark and haunting. Their deaths, and their families’ sacrifices, should remind us every day about the resilience of the American people, their belief in democracy, and the values we hold dear. The pathways to achieving those goals may be divergent, but the goals remain compelling and worthwhile. That, alone, is an extremely good reason to vote!

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