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Ebbin Proposes Extended Polling Hours

by ARLnow.com January 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm 22 Comments

Long line to vote, as seen from the roof of Arlington Central Library (photo courtesy Peter Golkin)(Updated at 5:05 p.m.) In the wake of a presidential election that saw 3+ hour lines at polling stations in Arlington, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has proposed a bill to extend polling hours in Virginia.

Ebbin, who represents parts of Arlington and Alexandria, is proposing extending the poll closing time to 8:00 p.m. from 7:00 p.m.

“My legislation to extend polling hours to 8:00 p.m. is designed to make it easier for Virginians to participate in our democracy,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Particularly in Northern Virginia, unforeseen circumstances like ice storms, earthquakes, traffic tie-ups and work emergencies have prevented people from getting to vote. Based on our recent presidential election, we know that a successful voter turnout can lead to long lines at the polls, particularly early in the morning. SB 964 would make it easier to vote — as it should be!”

Ebbin’s bill, SB 964, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Privileges and Elections committee on Tuesday, Jan. 15, according to the legislative tracking website Richmond Sunlight.

Photo courtesy Arlington Public Library

  • Dum Dum Guy at the Gates of Dawn

    They do not need to extend the hours. They need to buy more voting machines. 5 machines per precinct for a Presidential election is a joke.

    • Yup

      Yup. And extend early voting times/places

      • Buckingham Bandit

        Technically there is no “early voting” in Virginia, merely “in-person absentee voting”, which you can conveniently do, well, early.

        The difference is that with “in-person absentee”, you technically need a reason why you can’t vote at the polls on Election Day; “early voting” is no questions asked.

        • Yup

          I stand corrected. I meant absentee. However, early voting would be nice too, though I’m sure people show up to absentee regardless and just mark down some reason

          • Buckingham Bandit

            That’s what I did. The poll worker all but said I could put down nearly any reason at all.

          • Mary-Austin

            I worked at the polls for absentee voting and I was amazed at the number of people who could not wrap their brain around the absentee voting concept.
            “If you are going to be ANYWHERE outside Arlington at ANY point on election day you can vote absentee”
            I guess it’s true some people just can’t take a hint.

        • drax

          We should institute early voting then. And vote by mail.

    • AL

      This was going to be my comment. Why are politicians so dumb?!

    • Arlingtoner

      +1. The problem is not the hours….having 4 or 5 machines per precinct is what causes the backup.

      When presidental elections become based on the popular vote (i think sooner than later), precincts will be even more crazy.

  • Overworked Chief Election Officer

    NO WAY! The day is long enough as it is, and will only discourage volunteer Election Officers, thereby making Election Day much worse. Obviously the best solutions are more [functioning] voting machines! However, I wouldn’t be against shifting polling hours by one later in the day.

    • BBMS

      Yeah, tend to agree. You might end up with less volunteers, making this a self-defeating proposal.

    • BlueLoom


      I used to be a poll worker (“used to be” is the operative phrase). We have to report at 5:00 a.m. to set up the machines and go thru the formalities of being sworn it. Polls open at 6:00. Once we’ve been sworn in, we cannot leave the premises. Polls close at 7:00, but anyone in line at 7:00 may still vote. We put a poll-worker at the end of the line at 7:00. Everyone in front of that person may vote. That could be up to another hour (in presidential years). Then we have to tally all the machines and work our way thru a mountain of paperwork. If a machine breaks down and doesn’t give us a tally, we have to wait at the polling station for “central” to send us a technician. It could be another hour or more. After the tally is complete, we have to put away the machines and sign (each of us, on every envelope) the collected papers. In a presidential year, we’re lucky to get out by 10:00 or 11:00. And remember, we got up that morning at 4:00. Yes, we get paid–$150, the last time I volunteered. I doubt that I would do it again if the pay were raised to $500. There are other ways I can serve my country and my county that don’t leave me destroyed for 3 or 4 days.

      (1) More machines
      (2) Easy early voting (this year was pretty good–you didn’t have to go to the courthouse)
      (3) Split shifts for poll workers

  • Hank

    What they really need is to get the write in software to use a god damned QWERTY keyboard.

    Each write in vote takes a ridiculous amount of time and slows everything up

    • drax

      Maybe people who waste their vote on a write-in are the problem.

      • ACDC Hack

        “Maybe people who waste their vote on a write-in are the problem.”

        Speaks volumes about the ACDC’s attitudes towards the electorate….
        And folks think that you guys act like you are entitled !!

        • drax

          Why are you yammering about the ACDC? I’m not the ACDC. I urge you to vote for a Republican or anyone else on the ballot if you like them.

  • PMoran

    Either way I got my basis covered

    • drax

      Your “basis” covered? Better cover your bases.


    The problem seems to be only in Presidential elections. Extended hours or other fixes ought to apply only to those elections.

  • Brandon

    There’s an incredible irony in the spectacle of people waiting in ridiculous lines to vote, at least here. They are witnesses to the dumbfounding incompetence and ineffectiveness of their government. Their government can’t even do something as simple and essential as organize an efficient election! And yet what did a majority of the waiting voters, when they finally reached the end of the line, proceed to do? Vote for politicians who pledge to give this same government ever more money and responsibility and power over their lives. As if somehow this will cure it of its incompetence and inefficiency.

  • Concerned citizen

    I agree with the people above. At the previous election, I empathized with the poor people standing for hours. If a few more privacy screens (made of cardboard) were bought, as well as setting up a couple more tables, people could vote the paper ballots and decrease wait times by 1/3.

    On a separate note, if people are “stuck in traffic” after work or have a work emergency that prevents them from voting, they probably aren’t working in Arlington and need to be encouraged to vote absentee. An extra hour is not going to help much.

    The election officers are working the whole day (required by law to stay the whole day) – one more hour on their part could lead to mistakes in totaling votes at the end of the day.

    I think extra election officers & privacy screens at presidential elections would be the best way to increase participation at the polls.

    • Max

      The problem is that to vote absentee, you have to provide a reason that will be unable to vote during voting hours. In Arlington this isn’t a problem as we are a physically tiny county. For other people in Virginia, their job could be an hour away and still be in the same county, and their polling location could be 15 minutes away in the opposite direction.


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