In countdown to election, Loudoun is prepared for voting
Thirty-one years ago, she joined the county’s Board of Elections and took over as the General Registrar in 1991.
Over the years, Brown has seen Loudoun voters go from relying entirely on paper and mechanical voting machines to cast their vote, to now using several methods to get their vote in.
“There have been a lot of changes and a lot of things different. I think this year the thing that’s different is we have online voter registration, you can now pull up an absentee ballot online, and so the way people traditionally do things is a lot different,” Brown said.
The State Board of Elections opened online voter registration in July 2013 following legislation enacted by former state Del. David Ramadan (R) that now allows eligible Virginians to submit their voter registration application or update their registration online.
This year, Brown says her office has seen a “large increase” in the amount of absentee ballots they have mailed to Loudoun residents, about a 10 to 15 percent increase compared to four years ago.
Since absentee voting started on Sept. 23, 13,973 absentee ballots have been mailed in to Loudoun’s Board of Elections, 1,477 e-mailed in and 3,717 people have come in-person to cast their absentee votes.
In-person absentee voting ends on Nov. 5 and those mailing in their absentee ballots will need to get them in by 7 p.m. on Nov. 8.
Loudounders who wish to vote early can do so at three locations around the county: the Loudoun County Voter Registration Office in Leesburg, the Cascades Senior Center in Sterling and the Dulles Multipurpose Center in South Riding.
Fears of a 'rigged' election
This year’s general election in particular has brought concerns -- from talk of foreign hackers trying to influence the election outcome, to criticism from a presidential candidate that the election is rigged.
“It’s been one of the scariest election of my life,” said Ashburn resident Linda Miller, who has voted since the presidential election between President John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
Since 2014 Loudoun County has relied on the OpenElect Voting Optical, a dual-sided optical scan ballot system which scans and verifies each voter’s ballot and then provides a summary of all ballots cast.
Even with the OVO system voters are still required to register, present a form of identification and fill out a paper ballot with a pen before they put the ballot through the OVO scanner system.
“The advantage of having the OVO and having the scanner is in the event of a recount you can actually go back and recount the ballots,” Brown said.
Because the OVO takes a photo of every ballot placed through the system, the Loudoun Board of Elections has a second copy on hand in the event something were to happen to the machine.
Brown says fears of a rigged election could also have stemmed from concerns about the number of registered voter.
But the general registrar assures the county does all of the list maintenance activities required by the state including removing people who are no longer eligible to vote whether they have moved to another state or are deceased.
“It takes an awful lot of people to be involved in it in order to rig the election,” Brown said.
Miller agrees. She says the office put in place too many precautions before for the election to be rigged.
“I had to sign, I had my social security number...we had to have photo ID which I don’t even think is necessary,” Miller said. “No, it can’t be rigged.”
So far about 237,000 to 238,000 Loudoun County residents have registered to vote, a number which Brown says increased in the last couple of months.
What happens after votes are cast?
After the last vote is cast on Nov. 8, Loudoun County election officers shut down their voting equipment and get the voting results from the 93 polling stations around the county.
Those results are then entered into a tablet and then posted online for the public to see instantly.
The morning after Election Day, the team begins the canvassing process where they go through the numbers posted and compare numbers on a spreadsheet to numbers that came from the precincts to “double check” the numbers are entered correctly to ensure there are no errors.
For those still skeptical of the election results, Brown says she could care less about who Loudouners are voting for. All she wants is to make sure all Loudoun County residents are given the opportunity to vote.
“I personally do not like politics and I lot of people would say then I’m not in the right job, but I think that makes me perfect for this job because I don’t care one way or the other who wins the election so to speak on a whole,” Brown said. “My job is to ensure that everybody gets the opportunity to vote and there’s no chance of us leaning one way or the other here, we’re non-partisan and we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, to ensure everybody has the opportunity to vote however they choose to vote.”
"The only thing we say is win and win big so there is no recount.”
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