Fairfax County to hold hearing on establishing campus voting precinct, polling location

If a Fairfax County ordinance is passed, on-campus students and faculty living in Masonvale may be able to vote at the above pictured University Hall. (Kevin Loker) 

Update 7/27 1:01 a.m. The Board has approved the ordinance that includes creation of the precinct. Check back for more info soon.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing Tuesday, July 26 on whether to approve the creation of a new voting precinct made up almost entirely by George Mason University’s Fairfax campus.

The recommendation for a “University” precinct, formed out of the western portion of the Woodson precinct, also means that the Fairfax campus would have an on-campus polling location.

On-campus residents and Mason employees living in Masonvale who are registered at those locations currently travel through Fairfax City to Woodson High School to visit the polls. The polling place for the proposed university precinct would be at University Hall, according to the board agenda item.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova asked Fairfax County staff to consider the Mason voting precinct and polling location in May, adding it to a list of other recommendations for new precincts and precinct boundaries that come as a result of redistricting action taken by the General Assembly after the 2010 Census.

Bulova, who represented the Braddock District prior to becoming chairwoman, called the motion a “window of opportunity” for the county and those with ties to Mason.

“It could be done outside of this process, [but it’s] logical to do it now while we’re making other changes as a result of the redistricting,” said Bulova.

The chairwoman also said that making the change now would be cost-effective because the county will be printing and sending information about the upcoming districting and boundary changes to county residents regardless of whether the new precinct is created.

Bulova received heat from Republican Supervisor John Cook, backed by Supervisor Pat Herrity, who told the Washington Examiner that the situation “smells of politics.” Mason is currently located in the Braddock District, which Cook represents.

The chairwoman refuted Cook and Herrity’s notion, saying that she received many requests over the years about the possibility of establishing a precinct for Mason.

“It’s just purely convenience,” said Bulova, adding that nobody is forced to do anything and that Virginia residents or out-of-state students may still vote in their home precincts.

“I cannot think of any downside whatsoever,” she said.

If passed, the ordinance would be effective for the November 8 general election.

The university “strongly supports” the effort, according to the Office of the President’s Chief of Staff Tom Hennessey.

As of July 5, 826 voters within the boundaries of the proposed
“University” precinct are registered to vote, according to a memo from the General Registrar to the board. Fifty-seven of those voters do not reside on the Mason campus. More students may become eligible to vote in the precinct as the construction of more on-campus housing is completed.

Students, faculty and staff have the opportunity to testify before the board on Tuesday. The hearing will be held at 5 p.m. at the Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting location, the Fairfax County Government Center Board Auditorium. In order to speak, Fairfax County residents should sign up on the Fairfax County website or call the Clerk to the Board of Supervisors.

Those who do not sign up ahead of time may be able speak after those on the schedule.

Representatives from Mason’s Student Government and Patriot Leaders are expected to attend.



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