In Largest Virginia County, GOP-Controlled Board Failed To Approve Needed Pollworkers

Hans A. von Spakovsky

Hans A. von Spakovsky

Though the polls were scheduled to close at 7 p.m., long lines in Fairfax County — the most populous jurisdiction in Virginia — kept some voters waiting until 10:30 to vote last Tuesday. The reason, according to election officials, was a shortage of poll workers partially caused by the Republican majority on the county’s three-member electoral board. One of those Republicans is controversial former Federal Election Commissioner Hans A. von Spakovsky, a George W. Bush recess appointee to the Commission and prominent advocate for strict voter ID laws.

Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney reported Thursday that General Registrar Cameron Quinn (R) said a major cause of the long lines was that she had 250 fewer poll workers than in the 2008, and 28,000 more voters. But, once parties nominate elections officials, they must be first approved by Quinn’s office, next be okayed by the electoral board, and then finally be trained for several hours:

By the week before the election, Quinn’s office had not acted on Democratic nominations of about 250 elections officials, Farrell said. The office cited a lack of paperwork or other shortcomings that Farrell said had not caused such delays in previous elections.

Moreover, at the same time, 140 Democratic-nominated officials had been approved by Quinn’s office and were ready to get the okay from the Electoral Board. But the two GOP-appointed members of the three-member board chose not to hold a meeting as scheduled on the Friday before the election.

That final meeting was cancelled, over the objection of Electoral Board Chairman Seth Stark (D), by the board’s two Republicans. Hans von Spakovsky’s official rationale was that senior staff requested the cancellation as they had lost election preparation time to Hurricane Sandy.

Faifax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) has proposed a bipartisan commission to examine the causes of the long lines. In his story, McCartney urged that this commission “should include an aggressive look at whether the GOP’s political interest in a low Fairfax turnout contributed to the Election Day problems.”

Republicans enjoy a majority on the electoral board because Virginia’s Governor, Bob McDonnell, is a Republican. But like other Washington, D.C. suburbs, Fairfax is a Democratic-leaning county. More than 108,000 of President Obama’s less-than-150,000 vote statewide margin came from Fairfax.

Long lines plagued elections in other swing states as well, prompting President Obama to note “we have to fix that,” in his election night victory speech.