Voters in Alexandria will be given a choice next week, not just for whom they will vote, but on how they want to vote — with an electronic machine or with a paper ballot.
Most other Northern Virginia jurisdictions have offered a choice to voters for several election cycles, but next week's election will be the maiden voyage of a new paper ballots in Alexandria. There, Democratic voters will have a congressional primary and a hotly-contested City Council primary featuring 14 candidates running for six seats. Although precinct results in Alexandria are usually called in to headquarters within minutes of the polls closing, this election will work differently.
"With the longer ballot and the risk of errors being called in or recorded, we've decided that we are going to have the results picked up and driven in before they are entered in our reporting system," registrar Tom Parkins says.
They'll be driven in from every precinct in the city, which means that Democrats in Alexandria won't know the results of the primary for at least two hours after the polls close Tuesday. Parkins says he's decided that all results will be driven into headquarters from now on.
"We don't want to make an error which could cause a loss of confidence in us as election administrators," he says.
On a recent afternoon, Matt Comey tried the new system to cast an absentee ballot, although he said he liked the old electronic ballots better.
"For the paper ballot, it took me about five minutes to fill in everything completely because I just wanted to make sure I got it through so the scanner would read it correctly," Comey said. "For the electronic balloting, I could just scroll through and I would be done in like a minute."
But absentee voter Judy Miller said although the paper ballots may take longer than the electronic system, she prefers them.
"I think that I felt as though I had something accomplished, whereas in the other I couldn't feel accomplishment," Miller said.
Polls will be open throughout Virginia on Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.