By James Cullum alexandrianews.org
Racing in her heels while pushing her two children in a double stroller, Hasna Elhoudaigu arrived at the City Registrar’s office on Royal Street just as absentee voting ended. Except in the event of an emergency on Monday, Nov. 3, Elhoudaigu is the last of nearly 17,000 absentee voters to cast a ballot in the City of Alexandria this year. “I called before and told them that I have two kids and am not going to make it on Tuesday. Thankfully they let me vote absentee and I just made it,” she said. Absentee voters in Alexandria turned out in record numbers this election season, more than doubling the record set four years ago. In 2004, there were 7,300 absentee ballots cast. This year, nearly 17,000 Alexandrians filed absentee ballots. According to Virginia election officials, as of Oct. 30, the Commonwealth of Virginia has mailed 429,000 absentee voter applications this year. That’s an increase of nearly 200,000 since the last presidential election. Complete state absentee totals will not be available until Monday, Nov. 3, officials said. “We shattered the previous record,” said City Registrar Tom Parkins. “Some of us have been working 70 and 80 hour weeks.” Saturday, the last day for absentee voting in Alexandria, 1,425 people voted. The lines snaked for hundreds of yards around the City Registrar’s Office. Voters were told to expect to wait for two and a half hours, and they did. “I got to the office at around 3 (p.m.) and finished voting by around 5 (p.m.),” said Mitchell Linde. “Everything went very smoothly and election officials were very solicitous of people’s needs.” With Tuesday approaching, “Now we’re just getting started,” said assistant registrar, Kay Hardin, a “part-time” city employee who is now working between 50 and 60 hours a week to accommodate the influx of voters. On Tuesday, 600 election officials will staff the City’s 26 precincts. That is an increase of 50 percent since 2004. “Every voting machine we have in the City has been deployed, and, with a shorter ballot this year, it should take voters about a minute to decide. But even still, this year when polls close, we anticipate another hour to hour and a half of voting until votes start to get tallied and it could be a couple of hours until the state receives complete returns,” Parkins said. Parkins expects voters to wait in two-hour lines this Tuesday. To avoid a long wait, he advises voters to arrive at their precincts in the late morning and early afternoon, when most people are at work. To make the voting process smoother, remember that all campaigning must happen 40 feet from the front door of the polling place. If you are wearing an item of clothing or a button that expresses specific party of candidate affiliation, you will be asked to cover it. The polls will open at 6 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m. If you don’t know where to vote, go to www.alexandriava.gov/elections.