The Wash
A voter exits the polling location at the Walter Reed Community Center in Arlington County on Election Day. (Rachel Looker / The Wash)

Arlington County polls saw ‘steady stream’ of in-person voters, despite new early voting options

A steady stream of voters in Arlington County cast their ballot in person Tuesday despite new voting laws that allow more flexibility for early voting options.

Crystal City resident Gregg Brazinsky walked out of a polling location at the Crystal Plaza apartments wearing a mask and rubber glove.

“I like the feeling of voting in person,” he said.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and new early voting election laws implemented in Virginia, Brazinsky was one of 53,000 Arlington County residents who voted in person Tuesday, according to the county’s voter turnout dashboard.

Virginia voters had multiple options this year to cast their ballots early with new voting laws from 2020 and 2021 that expand curbside voting options and in-person early voting options.

A new law passed in 2021 allows an electoral board or general registrar of a locality to provide absentee voting in person on Sundays during the early voting period.

Joan Porte, president of the League of Women Voters of Arlington and Alexandria City, said polling places throughout Arlington were busy over the weekend, specifically on Sunday.

“I’m really glad that people are getting used to it and I hope that these early voting measures stay,” she said.

Voters had the option to go to 54 polling locations throughout Arlington County that were open until 7 p.m. Polling locations saw a steady flow of voters on Election Day, poll watchers said.

One polling location at the Walter Reed Community Center saw a consistent number of voters but did not experience any delays or long lines, according to Chief Election Officer Eric Goldstein.

Goldstein said a quarter of the voters assigned to the polling location had voted early.

Voter Dennis Norton made the trip to the community center to vote in person, saying he wanted to cast his ballot himself “because it’s legal.”

“I want to represent my vote,” he said. “My vote is represented by coming here to make sure that if I go inside and somebody says, ‘you already voted,’ I can say ‘I’m sorry, but they’re wrong.’ I show up in person for that very reason.”

Arlington County saw 28,000 residents vote in-person during the early voting period, 13,000 vote by mail and 53,000 voters who cast their ballot in person on Election Day, according to the county’s voter turnout dashboard.

During last year’s election and the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 65% of voters participated in the early voting period by casting their ballots by mail, drop box or in person. The county only had a 14% turnout of in-person voters on Election Day 2020.

At the polling location inside Crystal Plaza apartments, Chief Election Officer Claire Adams said they had seen 586 voters about halfway through election day.

“It’s more than we thought,” she said of the in-person turnout.

Voter Brazinsky described himself as a “traditionalist” and explained how voting in person was easier for him than filling out the form for a mail-in ballot and dropping it off or mailing it.

He said he voted last year via mail-in ballot because of the pandemic and the fact that he wasn’t vaccinated. The 2020 election was his first time participating in any early voting options.

While he said he is still cautious because of COVID-19, now that he is vaccinated, he felt more comfortable voting in person.

“Last year I just took an extra level of precaution,” he said.

Voters stand inside the Crystal Plaza Apartments in Crystal City to cast their ballots. (Rachel Looker / The Wash)

Chief Election Officer Curt Breckenridge at the polling location at the Park Operations Building in Shirlington said the polling site saw 550 people a little more than halfway through the day.

Breckenridge said there was a steady stream of voters, but not any big rushes.

He said this year’s turnout was average compared to last year.

Voter Marcos Zetino, who also voted in person last year, said he wanted to vote in person at the Park Operations Building in Shirlington to make sure his vote counts.

He said he considered early voting options this year, but heard on the news about problems with mail delays.

“I didn’t want something to happen,” he said. “I wanted to make sure my vote counts.”

Michael Fauntroy, founding director of George Mason University’s Race, Politics and Policy Center, said in-person turnout on Election Day is usually greater than early voting numbers.

He said the numbers from Arlington County did not surprise him.

Fauntroy said many people’s circumstances determine their reasoning for voting in person, describing how many older voters like to vote in-person on Election Day.

“I think it’s a bit of a generational breakdown,” he added.

League of Women Voters of Arlington and Alexandria City’s Porte said early voting yesterday was at the highest it’s ever been for a gubernatorial election.

“The league is all for people having the easiest way to vote,” she said.

Porte highlighted how Election Day was a state holiday this year, which is something she said the league is encouraging on the federal level to provide voters more flexibility to cast a ballot.

“The league hopes that we continue to make voting easy and accessible to all people because not everyone can vote on Election Day,” she said.

Rachel Looker

I am a Washington D.C.-based reporter pursuing a master’s degree in journalism and public affairs at American University and working as a political/investigative fellow at USA Today. I cover Arlington County for The Wash.

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