Some residents waited in line more than two hours to make sure their vote got counted
FAIRFAX COUNTY–After waiting nearly two and a half hours in line to get inside the Fairfax County Government Center, 30-year-old Springfield resident Patrick Henry cast his vote for President Donald Trump.
“It’s important to vote to make sure my vote gets counted and not lost in the mail somewhere.” Henry said. Henry worked as an Army medic for nine years. He said national security, healthcare and immigration are his biggest concerns during this election.
Voters in Fairfax began early voting Sept. 18. Lines wrapping around the front of the building brought tons of media attention, claims volunteer Candace Butler. Also attracting attention was a group that arrived one day later on Saturday, causing some voters to feel intimidated. However, that feeling didn’t last long. Crowds poured out to vote early this week, led on Monday by former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Speaker of the Virginia House Eileen Filler-Corn and Virginia Senate member Dick Saslaw.
With all that in mind, Friday’s turnout was the largest she’s seen yet. Butler works for Fair Maps Virginia and has been out volunteering since last Friday.
On Wednesday, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay released a statement that 4,649 voters had cast their ballots by that afternoon.
Voters Decide Between Biden and Trump
Great Falls resident Lynne McDonald, 57, and her daughter Sarah, 20, voted for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Lynne McDonald describes herself as a “moderate Democrat” and said her husband is Republican. But she said he voted for Biden this election.
Lynne McDonald said Trump tries to divide Republicans and Democrats.
“He is constantly saying Democrats hate this country, and that is so not true,” she said. “Republicans who support him, they’re not anti-American either. We have a right to our opinions, but for the leader of our country to sit there and say more than half of the country hates the country because they don’t like him, there’s a problem.”
Centreville resident Wayne Mercer, 50, voted for Trump. He said that due to the COVID-19 virus, he became unemployed, and rebuilding the economy is his main concern.
“I think [Trump] has done an amazing job and has just been railroaded over the past year and a half,” Mercer said. “I can’t imagine any other president, left or right, could have done so much with every single distraction, from the virus to impeachment.”
What Are Voters’ Top Issues?
Many voters shared three top issues with Dogwood. Those included climate change, healthcare and the state of democracy.
Falls Church resident Peter Clifford, 60, said he and his wife have lived in different countries. They’ve seen democracy fall apart.
“We’ve seen the rise of extreme parties — and intolerant parties — and it can get out of hand pretty quick,” Clifford said. “You could see a lot of damage to core institutions.”
Clifford cast his vote for Biden.
New Voters Discuss Election’s Importance
Clifford’s wife, 47-year-old Sibel, gained the right to vote just two years ago, after she became an American citizen. She’s concerned about immigration, as an immigrant herself from Turkey.
This is Sibel Clifford’s first time voting in an American presidential election. She voted for Biden.
“I feel like this is a really important election,” Sibel Clifford said. “I lived in other countries before, and I was not really paying too much attention to what’s going on here. But I feel like now that I have lived here for the last five, six years, I lived through the divided states of the country, which is sad. So I think it’s one of the really important ones if you want to make sure that our future is safe.”
Two 19-year-old George Mason University sophomores, Jacob Knotts and Marcus Tate, voted for Biden. They said they’re excited to exercise their right to vote for the first time.
“I mostly am just sick and tired of how last election, we didn’t really have a say in this matter.” Knotts said. “Even though it really should have been more of what we had to say, since this is going to be our country that we’re going to inherit.”
Knotts said he is mostly concerned about climate change, the Supreme Court and police reform. Tate is also concerned about climate change and closing the wealth gap for lower income people of color.
Why Choose In-Person Voting Over Absentee?
For all of the voters Dogwood asked, they said their biggest voting concern was the safety of absentee voting.
65-year-old Annandale resident Hilda Njounkwe said, “I wasn’t sure my vote would be counted…So I decided to come and take the time to do it myself.”
Tate said that he believes the Trump administration is using the COVID-19 outbreak as an excuse to make in-person voting inaccessible to people.
“I believe that there’s a lot of insecurity around some of the other forms of voting, especially mail-in ballots, and I don’t necessarily trust on election day that every polling place will be open,” Tate said. “I figured if I voted early, I could make sure my voice is heard.”
As the election approaches, Trump has raised concerns of increased mail-in voting leading to heightened risks of voter fraud, although according to a New York Times article, election experts say vote harvesting and election fraud are statistically unlikely.
However, decreased funding and resources of the United States Postal Service has left many voters still skeptical of the safety of absentee voting.
Accepting the Results
This week Trump suggested he may not accept the election results if he were to lose the election. Historically, a peaceful transition of power has taken place every time a new president has taken office, as required by the Constitution.
Mercer told Dogwood that he would support Trump in this decision if he loses.
Roderick Dottin, a 65-year-old Herndon resident, said, “All democracy works on the fact that you don’t expect the one with ultimate power to push it to the limit.”
There will be early voting at the Fairfax County Government Center up until Oct. 31.
Hannah Parker is a freelance reporter with Dogwood. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.