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Weather No Excuse

Sandhya Somashekhar

The weather report calls for rain and snow Tuesday, when Fairfax County voters are scheduled to choose a new chairman of the Board of Supervisors. But elections officials want you to know that, under Virginia law, concern over inclement weather on Election Day is not a good enough reason to take advantage of early voting.

Confusion arose over the rules on Friday, when dozens of voters began calling and visiting the office of the Fairfax County registrar asking to vote early. Some, apparently, were motivated by a recorded "robo-call" from former congressman Tom Davis (R), a supporter of GOP candidate Pat Herrity. Davis' message told voters: "The current weather report is calling for snow on Election Day, February 3rd," and then gave the hours for early voting. (A full transcript of the message follows).

The confusion prompted registrar Rokey Suleman to send an e-mail to local party leaders.

"We are getting numerous calls and voters coming in to the office to vote because they are receiving recorded telephone calls informing people about the possibility of inclement weather on Tuesday and encouraging the voter to vote absentee in-person," he wrote. "Unfortunately, the threat of inclement weather is not a valid reason to vote absentee according to the Virginia legislature...Some folks are getting angry."

Here is a list of acceptable reasons to vote absentee in Virginia. In his note, Suleman said the difficulties on Friday illustrate why he is a proponent of allowing "no excuse" early voting -- a proposal currently being debated in Richmond

Many of you will recall the drama that unfolded during the presidential primary last year when icy conditions prevented some voters from getting to the polls on time.

Luke Vaughn, a spokesman for the campaign of Herrity's Democratic opponent, Sharon Bulova, said he did not believe Davis or the Herrity campaign intentionally misled voters. However, he said, "if people are confused, I would encourage [the Herrity campaign] to clear up the confusion."

Indeed, yesterday evening, Herrity sent out an e-mail to supporters including a list of allowable reasons to vote absentee.

Here is the full transcript of the Davis robo-call, provided by the Herrity campaign:

"Hello this is Congressman Tom Davis. I am calling to remind you to vote for my friend Pat Herrity. He is a true leader when it comes to transportation and has the award winning financial skills needed to address the County's budget problems. The current weather report is calling for snow on Election Day, February 3rd. In person absentee voting will take place today and Friday from 8am to 6pm and Saturday from 9am to 5pm at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. Please remember to vote for Pat Herrity February 3rd at your local polling place or absentee in person before Saturday This call has been paid for and authorized by Friends of Pat Herrity."

By Sandhya Somashekhar  |  January 31, 2009; 8:53 AM ET
Categories:  Election 2009 , Fairfax County Board of Supervisors , Polls , Sandhya Somashekhar  
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Unfortunately for Herrity, the data shows clearly that "robo calls, particularly for GOTV, have a perfect record of never having worked" (Green and Gerber, Yale).

Shaun Dakin
The National Political Do Not Contact Registry
Twitter = @EndTheRobocalls

Posted by: shimane1 | January 31, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Tom Davis could talk to his pals down in Richmond who are preventing us from having no-excuse early voting...

Posted by: jimeh | February 2, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

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