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Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

Blog archive

And now, this public service announcement ...

Do you think it might be difficult to get to the polls on Election Day?

For many federal employees in the national capital region, the answer could be “yes.” In addition to the usual Beltway backups and unexpected public transportation delays, Metro single-tracking and line shutdowns due to long-term SafeTrack repairs are making things particularly dicey when it comes to getting from here to there on time.

And there are a whole lot of long-distance commuters in the metro area—federal and private-sector alike. And even though polls are open before and after work, voter lines can be pretty long during those high-traffic hours.

So here’s a short public service announcement:

A quick look at a nonprofit group’s voter website (aptly named nonprofitvote.org) that directs users to election and voting information for every state indicates that feds who live in the District of Columbia and Maryland have an easy solution: Any registered voter in those two jurisdictions can vote absentee or via so-called “in-person absentee,” i.e., early voting—without an excuse—weeks in advance of Nov. 8 at designated early voting locations. So, the good news for commuting feds who live in D.C. and Maryland is that they can skip those Election Day worries and get their voting out of the way early.

But the third jurisdiction in the capital area—Virginia—places certain restrictions on who may take advantage of absentee and in-person absentee voting. In the Old Dominion, you need a valid excuse—one of those on the list the commonwealth publishes on its voter site.

Could be bad news for the tens of thousands of rush-hour commuters who live in one of the region’s Northern Virginia localities, right? Ehh, not so much.

Here’s public service announcement No. 2:

You don’t have to be a student, military or homebound to vote absentee or in-person absentee in Virginia. In fact, most people who are qualified to use that option don’t even know it.

Example: Do you live in Virginia but work in Maryland or D.C.? You qualify. Do you live in Fairfax County, Va., but work a couple miles away in Arlington County, Va.? You qualify. Is it possible that you will be working and commuting 11 of the 13 hours polls are open on Election Day? You qualify.

That wasn’t so hard. Virginians who work outside their county of residence—or who are hard-working road warriors—qualify.

Bottom line: There are plenty of voting solutions for feds in the transportation-challenged capital region—in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia alike—as long as they abandon old-fashioned notions of what absentee voting is, who uses it, and how easy it is. (For example, election officials in Arlington County have already begun accepting in-person absentee ballots six days a week.)

So if you take your vote seriously and, like many feds, have a long haul to work—whether in the D.C. area, or any other region of the country, for that matter—this may be the year to check out your state’s alternative voting options, most of which are usually available on your state or county website.

And hopefully you’ll still get one of those little stickers.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Sep 27, 2016 at 3:55 PM


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