By Todd Thurwachter:
Early voting is a key tool in increasing Democratic voter turnout — just ask Dr. Ibraheem Samirah. In Samirah’s successful race for state delegate in a special election on Feb. 19, early voting shot up 335% in Herndon compared to the special election just a month earlier for state senator, whose district included those same Herndon precincts.
A lot of credit should go to Fairfax Democrats Voter Registration & Education Committee’s “Voting QuickGuide” provided three weeks before the election, which canvassers used to help voters make a voting plan.
Samirah’s campaign manager was enthusiastic. “Thank you so much for these [Voting QuickGuides]! We used them this weekend and found them very useful for conversations at the door!”
Early voting (ie, absentee in-person voting) at the Herndon Library on the Saturday prior to Samirah’s election as delegate for District 86 resulted in 275 votes cast, compared to only 82 in the comparable exercise for the Jan. 8 special election for state senate District 33. In a single day, Samirah “pre-banked” 20% of the vote of Herndon’s three precincts. “The numbers from Herndon were phenomenal.” said Samirah. “[We are] truly honored to have worked with… the team from Fairfax Dems on early voting.”
Overall, absentee voting in-person in Fairfax County increased 60% over the Jan. 8 special election. The lesson is clear for the pivotal vote coming up on Nov. 5 in which many state and local races will be settled.
Most Fairfax County voters qualify to vote early but don’t know it, so few do. But the Voting QuickGuide (find it at: fairfaxdemocrats.org/voting ) makes it quick and easy for volunteers to qualify voters to vote early. All campaign workers in our region should be made aware of this tool, and should be encouraged to use it.
Traditionally, the lion’s share of absentee voting in Virginia has been by mail. But in Fairfax, as we proactively demystify absentee in-person voting, that ratio has flipped. In last June’s primary, over 70% of absentee voters voted in-person. In Samirah’s election, the rate was even higher, 88%.
Unfortunately, for the primary election in June, 60% of applied-for absentee ballots by mail were never voted, and the non-voting rate is even higher for the young and minorities, key Democratic constituencies. And unlike absentee ballots — which may not be counted if there are even small mistakes (in 2012, almost 25% were not counted) — absentee in-person voters get proof their votes were scanned and counted.
The Voting QuickGuide is now revised for the Nov. 5 election to boost turnout for all Democrats. Using it is as easy as 1, 2, 3:
- Direct voters to fairfaxdemocrats.org/voting for all their voting needs, from registering and updating address to verifying their polling place and checking out the candidates to answering all their voting questions (in Spanish too!),
- Urge voters to vote early, in-person
- Sign up voters for Election Alerts using the FCDC BLUE WAVE signup form (electronic sign-up at http://fairfaxdemocrats.org/why-vote-in-every-election/; for a printable signup form for Election Alerts and Info on Events & Activities, e-mail request to: firstname.lastname@example.org). Sign-ups not only boost GOTV, they boost our ranks of potential volunteers!
The Voting QuickGuide empowers volunteers to increase Democratic turnout, which will help turn Virginia blue in 2019 and build a bigger blue wave for 2020!
Todd Thurwachter, a retired Foreign Service Officer, has canvassed since returning from Beijing in 2009, serving since 2013 on the FCDC Voter Registration & Education Committee. He is a member of Providence District Democratic Committee.
Photo: Dr. Ibraheem Samirah joins Dranesville Dems’ Kat Kehoe and Anne Worster on Saturday Feb. 8 at the Herndon Library, celebrating a 335% increase in early voting compared to the Jan. 8 special election