Trans Woman is a Leading Contender for Surgeon General Post

Perhaps realizing how one of the most important issues Biden address once in office is the coronavirus, the president-elect has already taken steps to surround himself with well respect public health officials. With that in mind, he also has to make decision on how to fill the Surgeon General role with someone who will become the nation’s preeminent public health official and lead the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. One of the top contenders for the position is a transgender woman named Dr. Rachel Levine.

Dr. Levine currently serves as the Secretary of Health in Pennsylvania and has been largely praised for her efforts in that role. As we’re seeing a rise in cases all across the country, for instance, Dr. Levine expanded the state’s mask order this week and is working to ensure hospitals have enough resources to deal with the increase number of cases. Medical professionals and elected officials were quick to respond positively to this announcement.

It’s actions like these that have caused someone in a relatively obscure position during non-pandemic times to receive a significant amount of attention and praise. She was even the subject of a recent article in the Philadelphia Magazine that praised her efforts and spoke about the respect she’s received from the community. The headline made it perfectly clear what folks thought of her by saying “Rachel Levine is saving Pennsylvania and become an accidental icon in the process.”

“Here, it’s Levine, who has been praised for her COVID-19 response — for many of us, a steady, composed, data-driven approach in a time when others have peddled panic (and false hope), placed blame and questioned science,” the article said. “There are Rachel Levine fan-club buttons. Someone started a Twitter hashtag, #Respect4Rachel, to push back on bigotry directed toward her. A Facebook fan page, “Dr. Rachel Levine-We Love You,” has 6,460 followers. The comments there are a steady stream of gratitude, describing her in words typically reserved for Jesus.”

But it’s not just her knowledge of public health issues that’s received attention. On top of being a well respected public health expert, the doctor has been a prime example of how transgender people are just like everyone else and can do fantastic work for the community. After right wing activists tried to spread bigotry and mock Dr. Levine for being trans, for example, she didn’t lose her cool or lose sight of the bigger picture. Instead, she used part of one of her briefings to address the attacks in a responsible way.

“I want to emphasize that while these individuals may think that they are only expressing their displeasure with me, they are in fact hurting the thousands of LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who suffered directly from these current demonstrations of harassment,” she said according to LGBTQ Nation. “Your actions perpetuate the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and specifically transgender individuals.”

“I think that we need to continue to educate people about LGBTQ individuals,” Dr. Levine added. “We are just here, we’re part of the community. We are doctors, we are nurses, we are teachers. We work in restaurants. We work everywhere, and it’s our children. So I think if an apology means, ‘Okay, I apologize. This is all done,’ then it is insufficient.”

Having Dr. Levine receive praise for her response to the pandemic while also combating the divisiveness and hatred spewed by anti-LGBTQ people might seem like something small, but it can have a lasting impact on people coming from a traditionally marginalized community.

Studies have shown that about 12 percent of today’s youth identify as transgender or gender non-confirming. That’s about 1 in 8 people. 90% of people in this group have been verbally harassed, 50% have been physically harassed, and 25% have been physically assaulted. This is in large part because many school systems and workplaces have no protections for LGBTQ students that prevent them from discrimination or harassment.

While young people are dealing with the actual fear that goes along with the the verbal and physical assaults, they also often feel isolated and alone. This is because they often aren’t represented in school curriculum or public media. There aren’t many transgender characters in TV shows, news coverage of the contribution trans people make to society, or discussion of their lives in literature or educational curriculum (such as sex ed, biology, or history).

Being able to see themselves represented in society’s culture will not only have direct benefits towards transgender individuals, but studies have proven that representation will actually reduce transphobia among the general population.

This makes sense if you simply look back on the discussion around same-sex marriage. There used to be laws against same-sex couples from even dating one another, but that’s changed over time as public opinion on gay rights has evolved. Even arch conservatives like Dick Cheney have come around on the issue after a family member came out, after all, and a conservative Supreme Court justice was the one who wrote the ruling declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

If Dr. Levine were to become the nation’s next Surgeon General, her history of action as Secretary of Health shows she would bring a tremendous amount of experience and expertise to the position. But her appointment could also go a long way in sending a message of promoting equality. And given Biden’s personal connections to the transgender community (he’s been close to state-senator-elect Sarah McBride and even wrote the forward to her book) and that he mentioned trans equality in his victory speech, I imagine this isn’t lost on the president-elect.

Sam Rasoul Officially Launches Campaign for LG

It’s been widely known that Sam Rasoul was going to run for Lt. Governor in 2021, but he officially launched his campaign this morning. The Democrat from Roanoke is one of the more progressive members of the House of Delegates and could provide some regional balance to a statewide ticket since he’s from Southwest Virginia.

With Virginia being a state with extremely lax campaign finance laws that places no limits on donations made to candidates for state and local office, there’s been a lot of discussion about the influence money has in the state’s elections. In recent years, this has resulted in many candidates committing to not taking contributions from Dominion Energy since it’s a state regulated company. This has been a noteworthy trend since Dominion has been one of the largest contributors to candidates.

Del. Rasoul has taken it a step further by making a “commitment to not take any PAC money.” He continued by saying he’s “committed to only accepting cash contributions from individual donors because I believe it’s the only way we can create a truly transparent government that is responsive to the needs of working Virginians.”

“People want to be able to vote for leaders who aren’t beholden to special interests,” the delegate added while pointing out he had a goal of getting 500 individual donors by Friday. “If a politician is taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel industry groups or pharmaceutical companies, it’s hard to believe they are actually going to represent my interests. We’re taking all the special interest money out of the equation. No PACs, only people.”

Del. Rasoul’s entering a relatively crowded field of candidates in the Democratic primary that includes fellow delegates Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman in addition to Sean Perryman (the president of the Fairfax County NAACP) and Paul Goldman. It’ll therefore be interesting to see if only accepting donations from individuals will hinder his ability to garner attention in a climate where even popular “election experts” like Rachel Bitecofer are ignorant enough about what’s going on in Virginia state politics that they thought there was only one person running for Lt. Governor.

However the primary turns out, Sam Rasoul’s announcement this morning helps emphasize how Virginia has elections every year and we’re already seeing candidates hitting the campaign trail for 2021.

Elizabeth Guzman Reacts to Election Results

With the presidential election being called over the weekend, Virginia’s leaders have been expressing their support of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris. While I highlighted some of the statements folks had already been making, I also wanted to highlight the video Elizabeth Guzman posted on twitter.

While the sentiment Del. Guzman expressed has been shared by many other elected officials, I wanted to highlight her remarks as a reminder of how Virginia has an active race for statewide offices coming up in 2021. On the Democratic side, we’ve already seen strong candidates like Guzman, Hala Ayla, and Sean Perryman enter the Lt. Governor race and providing a diverse field of folks running for statewide office. Women of color such as Jennifer McClellan and Jennifer Carroll Foy have also entered the gubernatorial race.

If you’re actively following the social media accounts of leading figures in Virginia politics, however, you probably noticed that there are some Republicans trying to completely dismiss the statewide campaigns of people of color and women. In a thread that ran dozens of tweets long, Rachel Bitcofer, a GOP consultant, completely ignored the people of color who’ve entered the race for statewide offices and claimed the only hope for Democrats is Terry McAuliffe.

As if that weren’t bad enough, she went on to suggest progressives shouldn’t criticize her because she was involved with the Lincoln Project. Understandably, there was significant backlash from active Virginia politicos after her long winded rant that wasn’t based on actual facts.

“If you can’t tweet about VA politics without erasing black women, getting gov candidates wrong, [and] claiming to be saving America, then maybe you shouldn’t be tweeting about VA politics,” David Broder of SEIU said.

Ben Tribbett added “I’ve been blocked by Rachel Bitcofer for awhile now, but glad to see everyone else is finally getting to see her idiocy showing.”

Even after Bitcofer finally admitted she didn’t even know what office Mark Herring was running for, she claimed he “snuck” his decision in without her being aware of it. She went on to insist this meant another white man was going to win the nomination and never even mention several prominent women of color running for governor. On top of that, she proceeded to block anybody who called her out on this.

While one Republican operative’s lengthy rant on social media isn’t the end all be all, it does help to illustrate the tremendous work that still needs to be done. If someone who claims to be in the know and makes a living in the world of politics doesn’t even know who’s running for statewide office, after all, then it’s very likely many voters aren’t familiar with the candidates. It also emphasizes the battle to end the assumption that only straight white male politicians should be discussed as leading contenders for elected office.

Fairfax County Leaders React to Joe Biden Winning Election

Fairfax County has been one of the more liberal counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia and delivered solid victories for the entire Democratic ticket in this year’s election. It therefore shouldn’t be too surprising that the county’s leaders were thrilled that Joe Biden was declared the winner today after Pennsylvania was called in his favor.

In the hours since Biden was announced as the president-elect, Fairfax County’s leaders have quickly put out statements that were optimistic about the direction he’ll take the country. Many were also quick to point out how his presence in the White House means Fairfax will now have an ally who will help move us forward in a way the county never saw from Donald Trump.

As word came that Joe Biden was being declared the winner, for example, Donald Trump was out playing golf at a golf course he owns in Northern Virginia. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA10) highlighted this while pointing out that Trump is still president until January 20th.

“Hey, Donald Trump. I appreciate your fondness for VA-10, but you’re still president for a couple more months and the pandemic is still raging out of control—including in your own White House,” Rep. Wexton tweeted“This national disgrace cannot end soon enough.”

She would also rightfully call attention to the historic nature of Kamala Harris become the first female Vice President. “On January 20th, 2021, there will be a woman in the White House,” she tweeted. “Congratulations, Kamala Harris.”

Karl Frisch represents the Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board and is definitely one of the more active local officials on social media. Shortly after media networks started calling the race for President-Elect Joe Biden, Karl tweeted about how he believed the news was worth celebrating.

“Of the hundreds of mobile alerts I have received on my phone over the past four years thanks to Donald Trump, finally one worth celebrating,” Karl tweeted along with a screenshot of the CNN alert declaring Biden the winner. He would later add “Goodbye Betsy DeVos.” Considering how Betsy DeVos has long been an advocate of shifting funding away from public schools in favor of charters and private schools and specifically called our Fairfax County on several occasions, it shouldn’t be too surprising for a school board member to be looking forward to having a partner as the next Secretary of Education.

Even before the news that the election had been called for Joe Biden, Chairman Jeff McKay highlighted the work that had been done here in Fairfax County. In addition to praising the leadership from the County’s electoral board, he focused in on how “elections matter” and we’re seeing great results here in Fairfax County.

“Elections matter,” McKay said in an email sent out to his supporters. “Just look at our work from Tuesday. As the largest jurisdiction in Virginia, we delivered. In addition to an overwhelming number of votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for President and Vice President (two and a half times the number of votes their opponent received), we secured strong victories for Sen. Mark Warner and Reps. Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, and Jennifer Wexton. In Fairfax County, all four of our bond items passed as well.”

As Virginia has elections every year, it also shouldn’t be too surprising that many of the 2021 gubernatorial candidates have also chimed in on the results. In addition to highlighting how Kamala Harris will now be the first female vice president and went to a HBCU, for example, Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy spoke about how she’s looking forward to moving past the hateful rhetoric Donald Trump too often employed.

“The pain Donald Trump inflicted on this country will take time to heal. But with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at the helm, we will move forward and away from the carnage that defined the last four years,” Jennifer tweeted. “I look forward to being a part of that progress.”

Unfortunately, the Fairfax County Republican party continued to push the conspiracy theories be promoted by Donald Trump about voter fraud. Shortly after Biden was declared the winner the Fairfax GOP sent out a message saying “if you saw something fishy, let Team Trump know.” This comes after they had volunteers who were engaging in extremely questionable activities at early voting sites and providing voters in the most diverse ares of Fairfax County blatantly false information about when voting ended.

In the long run, it appears as though many leaders here in Fairfax County are hopefully after the election was called for Joe Biden. But the actions of the local GOP shows how there’s still a lot of work to do if we hope to have the Biden Administration live up to its full potential.

Alex Cora to Return as Manager of Boston Red Sox

Multiple media reports are now confirming that Alex Cora will be returning to Boston as skipper of the Red Sox. As the country is largely tuned into news programs waiting for developments on the election results, this caught some fans by surprise since he was fired back in January after being connected to the cheating scandal surrounding the Houston Astros. He was also suspended by the league for the role he allegedly played in trash can banging scheme, which raised a lot of questions about whether he’d ever actually return to the dugout.

But as coverage of the coronavirus and the 2020 presidential election have caused folks to almost forget about the whole scandal, most fans hadn’t really thought about it for awhile. That’s not to say there won’t be some PR related issues for Boston to address, but Cora’s role in the scandal isn’t as toxic as it was just 10 months ago.

On top of that, there’s simply no ignoring how passionate Boston fans are about their Red Sox and there’s a lot of frustration with how the team played in the pandemic shortened 2020 season. Even before team officials fired Roenicke, the abysmal product on display at Fenway Park had fans longing for Alex Cora and the success Boston had while winning the World Series in 2018.

Even in the immediate aftermath of Cora’s firing, the team largely spoke positively of the skipper and his time in Boston. Xander Bogaerts, for instance, met with his former manager the day after he was fired and told reporters he’d want “someone like” Cora as the team’s new manager. Several other players had good things to say about the skipper and team executives treated him with respect when announcing his departure. Instead of attacking his character like they could have in hopes of distancing the team from the scandal, after all, the team suggested the scandal simply put him in a spot where he couldn’t “effectively lead the club” at the time.

“Given the findings and the commissioner’s ruling, we collectively decided that it would not be possible for Alex to effectively lead the club going forward and we mutually agreed to part ways,” John Henry and team executives said in a statement.

With all that being said, there has been some division over whether or not bringing Cora back was the right move. But there definitely was a sense most people leaned towards being excited about the decision.

Some pundits on WEEI were saying that the move reminds them of the New England Patriots in how his return can almost be seen as being defiant of league officials who were trying to place a lot of blame for the cheating scandal on Cora. They highlight that nobody is doubting whether or not the Puerto Rico native was qualified to lead the team, it was simply whether or not his return would be worth the resulting PR nightmare. Having a successful 2021 season could very well prove the results were worth any PR struggles.

Keeping along those lines, there was a general sense that Alex was viewed as a scapegoat because the league didn’t believe they couldn’t punish the responsible players without angering the player’s union. Considering how members of the Boston media are already having this line of discussion, it’s reasonable to assume the PR consequences of bringing him back might not be too severe.

On top of that, Chad Jennings of the Athletic pointed out fans would likely compare anybody else the team brought in to Alex Cora.

“In that sense, Cora was the Red Sox safest choice,” Jennings wrote. “Any other manager would have faced an inevitable comparison. Early losing streak? Cora could have stopped it. Underperforming player? Cora would have known what to say. Disappointing season? Not on Cora’s watch. He maintains some benefit of the doubt, even beneath the weight of his past transgressions.”

Instead of the inevitable comparisons, Boston fans will now have much of the same coaching staff that have led the Red Sox to success. The only difference to the last time Cora was in the dugout is Roenicke won’t be the bench coach. After Cora was fired, Roenicke had stepped into the skipper role and was eventually fired due to the horrible performance the team had in the 2020 season.

Moving forward, there’s no doubt the team will need to address the scandal and the role Cora played in it. But this is largely viewed as an example of how we largely believe people deserve a second chance and it will likely be a non issue if it’s handled correctly. As a result, we’ll hopefully see Boston start rebuilding the team.

Steven Cohen Engages NY Mets Fans on Twitter

As we have a president who receives criticism for the type of rhetoric he uses on social media, the new owner of the New York Mets appears to understand how Twitter can actually be used to engage the public in a positive manner. In an account that hadn’t been verified by twitter due to its lack of use, Steven Cohen took to social media to announce he’s buying the Mets and ask the public for their input.

“I anticipate the deal closing in the next 10 days and then it’s off and running,” Cohen tweeted. “I would love to hear your ideas to make YOUR Mets experience better.”

Cohen’s tweet has now received over 7,000 responses and his account has more than 45,000 followers as the public’s eager to give their two cents. And Cohen didn’t just send out the initial tweet’s and then ignore what folks had to say as he’s been keeping up with replies and actually engaged in conversation with fan.

Over the course of a couple days, the new owner responded to about three dozen fans on topics ranging from placing markers in the parking lot that correspond with where crucial plays happened in the old Shea Stadium (which sat on what’s now a parking lot for Citi Field) to creating some sort of loyalty program for fans who have continued supporting the team while they’re at the bottom of the NL East. This hasn’t been lost on fans and many people noted how this sharply contrasted with the team’s previous owners.

“Optically, it’s good for him,” a season ticket holder named Paul Bauer said according to the Athletic. “It’s also a cool thing to do. Seeing him reach out to the fans to solicit ideas I think is just fantastic. It’s such a change of pace from the previous ownership, who were huge fans themselves. But they just were never ready to live up to being in a major market, or even to get out of their own way.”

While only time will tell if Steven Cohen will actually keep his account actively engaging fans once the deal is finalized and the initial honeymoon phase is over, just the initial outreach is something Mets fans aren’t used to from ownership. If anything, the Wilpon family went to great lengths to be the exact opposite of transparent.

Back in 2011, for instance, Jeff Wilpon told ESPN that fans didn’t deserve to know who was buying up about $200 million worth of interest in the Mets because “some of the people don’t want to be public.” This was especially concerning for many fans because it showed a clear lack of transparency and disregard for what diehard fans arguably should know. Plus, it came at a time when the Wilpons had just lost upwards of $700 million in the Bernie Madoff scandal and rumors suggested they might not be able to hold onto the team.

On top of not being open with the public about the team’s operations, there were plenty of stories about family drama impacting the way the team was run. It wasn’t just the business operations that were being harmed either as the Wilpon family was reportedly micromanaging the team and meddling in day to day baseball operations. All of this didn’t go over well with as the team made its home in one of the biggest media markets in the entire world and fans therefore had an intensified need for information.

By immediately reaching out to fans on social media and asking for their feedback, it looks like Cohen will be a different kind of owner after he beat out groups involving J-Lo and Alex Rodriguez and another including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to take ownership. There’s been a lot of discussion about how the $2.4 billion he paid comes along with his eagerness to move the team in a positive direction is why he was eventually able to position himself to beat out other powerful bidders. With the initial moves he’s been making, it appears as though that could prove beneficial and Steven Cohen might be the type of owner Mets fans have been waiting for.

Phyllis Randall Calls Out GOP Candidate Aliscia Andrews for Latest Ad

Aliscia Andrews, the Republican nominee in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District, has spent most of her campaign trying to villainize Jennifer Wexton. She’s repeatedly tried to paint her as someone who supports violence and opposes the police. Instead of painting a positive portrait of her own background for voters, the constant theme in her campaign mailers has been painting Wexton as an extremist.

The latest example of this theme comes from a video put out by a right wing super PAC that paints Democrats as violent left wing extremists. The video featured footage of masked people acting violently before showing Andrews carrying weapons of war with an announcer saying she’s “ready to take Capitol Hill.” It went on to claim she was just one of several “red state warriors” who were “packing some serious heat” while campaigning.

Even in the best case scenario, this is far from a peaceful message. Instead, many community members have raised serious concerns about the ad and suggest it encourages right wing violence.

While she didn’t directly discuss the ad’s contents, Phyllis Randall, the Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, did feel like the ad was dangerous enough that she needed to address it.

“I haven’t talked about Jennifer Wexton’s election,” Randall said in a social media post. “Obviously I strongly support Jennifer and I’ve never met Ms. Andrews. I appreciate her service as a Marine and was happy to just stay quiet on her. But Ms. Andrews participating in this video disqualifies her from holding any elected office. Ever…EVER.”

“So now it’s not just a matter of voting for Congresswoman Wexton, it’s also voting AGAINST Ms. Andrews,” the Chair added. “There is a difference. One is support, the other is a message. Ms. Andrews, we are better than this foolishness. Take a seat, in fact get four so you can all sit the heck down.”

The 10th Congressional District covers portions of western Fairfax County and then makes its way out to the border with West Virginia. While it has gradually been bluer and bluer over the years, it had been represented by Republicans in the House of Representatives for decades until Rep. Jennifer Wexton won the seat back in 2018.

Not too surprisingly, Rep. Wexton’s tended to follow the trend of the district by being a moderate Democratic who’s concerned about really making a difference in the district. She received a fair amount of attention when she was sworn into Congress by putting a trans rights flag outside her office door, for instance, but she’s also said she has some concerns about Medicare for All … something many in the Democratic Party’s base would like her to support. Her website instead addresses healthcare by highlighting how she actively supported the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia, has fought for access to mental health care, and sponsored the Health Savings for Families Act in 2019.

Wexton won her race rather solidly when she received 56.1% of the vote over incumbent Barbara Comstock, but Republicans weren’t eager to leave the race uncontested this year since freshmen members of Congress are often considered vulnerable to defeat. So after a four way Republican primary, the GOP nominated Aliscia Andrews for the 2020 campaign.

After Andrews received the nomination, it appears as though the Republican Party and its allies have decided their only path to victory would include trying to tear down a moderate Democratic incumbent. It appears as though that hasn’t been successful, however, as polling conducted in October showed Rep. Wexton with a 22 point lead. Even if there somehow was some serious last minute changes to the race, it’s next to impossible for someone to overcome a 22 point deficit in the polls at this point in the race.

Early Voting Numbers Increase in Fairfax County

With today being the last day to vote here in Virginia, Fairfax County has already seen a sharp rise in the number of people voting early. Over 355,000 voters had already cast their ballot by the end of Thursday evening and thousands more are expected to vote before Tuesday.

Analysis shows that over 20% of people who requested an absentee ballot hadn’t already returned it and many people will be sending them over the course of the next few days or returning them while voting in person. As a result, many experts predict well over 50% of registered voters in Fairfax will take part in early voting this year.

There’s been a general belief that people who participate that people who’d vote early would likely skew Democratic and the data suggests that’s an accurate assumption. As of Wednesday, October 28th, 330,133 people in Fairfax County had either returned their mail in ballot or voted at an in person early voting site. 194,826 of those people are identified as strong or lean Democrat in the VAN (a voter database used by advocacy organizations), 45,934 are identified as strong or lean GOP, and 89,373 are somewhere in between. In other words, only 13.91% of early voters were lean or strong GOP.

This could arguably help explain why conservative activist groups been challenging the early voting process. One organization, for instance, filed a lawsuit to prevent the Department of Elections from counting certain ballots that didn’t have a postmark. On Thursday, a judge sided with the group and said there would have to be extra steps taken to help ensure the authenticity of those ballots.

In addition to that, there have been multiple reports of the Republican Party preparing to challenge the ballots of individual reports. The party has requested access to government documents with voter signatures on file, for instance, so they can compare signatures to those on mail in ballots that have been returned. If they foresee even the slightest discrepancies, the GOP could ask for votes to be thrown out.

The ACLU recently point out challenging the signatures used for mail in ballot is a form of voter suppression that has a greater impact on traditionally marginalized communities. Considering the early voting process is designed in part to make the voting process easier, it’s hoped that these communities would be able to utilize these programs to cast their ballot. Many low income workers, for instance, might not be able to get off work in time to stand in line for several hours (and the lines have been especially long here in Fairfax). The mail in ballot process is therefore extremely important.

On top of that, the ACLU highlighted how people’s signature could naturally look different even if it’s not intentional. If you were to simply look over consumer receipts you’ve signed, for instance, it’s likely you’ll notice a difference. The difference could be even further increased when considering how the signature on file was often done several years ago.

With all this in mind, many analysts are interested in seeing what the long term impact the increased early voting numbers will have on the election process. While many people are voting early due to the pandemic, after all, this will mean more people are familiar with the concept. One therefore cannot help but wonder if they consider doing so again in future elections.

Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano Speaks Out Against Voter Intimidation

Fairfax County’s Commonwealth Attorney has issued a warning against the use of voter intimidation as many Fairfax residents are worried about its potential impact on this year’s election.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of concern about voter intimidation,” Descano said in a video he posted on twitter. “I’ve set up a special election response team that will be on call whenever the polls are open; standing by to coordinate with the Fairfax County Police Department when responding to allegations of voter intimidation. That team has been trained on all relevant topics including voter intimidation, the county’s new gun ordinance, and even the prosecution of unlawful militias that would interfere with the free exercise of voting.”

“Nothing flies in the face of patriotism and freedom quite like voter intimidation,” he continued. “Although politics can often be divisive and contentious, there is no excuse for voter intimidation and my office stands ready to protect everyone’s right to vote.”

This comes as volunteers for the Fairfax County Republican Party have engaged in tactics leaving voters feeling extremely uncomfortable at in person early voting locations. On one of the first days for early voting at the Fairfax County Government Center, for instance, Trump supporters drove around in circles while honking their horns and carrying Trump flags while screaming various slogans.  County officials eventually had to come escort voters through the crowd of conservative activists because so many voters felt intimidated by the GOP’s shenanigans.

While law enforcement officials said actions taken by the Republican Party that day negatively impacted voters and the community was right to be concerned, the activities weren’t technically illegal. With that in mind, Descano did highlight some of the actions that are specifically outlawed at polling locations.

  • Threats or acts of violence
  • Acting aggressively toward voters
  • A display of firearms
  • Blocking the entrance or exit of a polling place
  • Following a voter to or from their vehicle

The rise in concern about voter intimidation also comes as Donald Trump has called for his supporters to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.” The president says this would be to prevent fraudulent voting, but his claims of voter fraud have been repeatedly proven untrue by election officials and law enforcement.

Combine this with how the president told white supremacists to “stand by” during the first presidential debate and armed right wing extremist groups are taking the president’s remarks as a call to action and announced they’ll be patrolling polling locations. This also coincides with Steve Knotts, the Chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Party, speaking out against local ordinances preventing people from carrying weapons inside government buildings in Fairfax County.

Voter intimidation isn’t the only concern that officials have as there are also concerns about the use of voter suppression tactics used by certain groups. There have been multiple reports of volunteers from the Fairfax County Republican Party lying to voters waiting in long lines about when they were allowed to cast their ballot and saying they were better off voting on Election Day at a different location.

Since “there is no greater expression of our shared American values” than voting, as Steve Descano said, many Fairfax residents appear to be relieved county officials are taking actions to prevent voter intimidation and suppression. Hopefully these efforts will be successful and voters will be able to freely participate in this year’s election.

Fairfax County Extends Early Voting Hours

There’s been a significant amount of media attention given to voters standing in line for hours on end to cast their ballot here in Fairfax County that’s prompted public discussion about how the issue could potentially be addressed. While it was originally unclear if they’d be able to find poll workers who could cover extended voting hours, the good news is the county’s announced it’s extending early voting hours on Thursday October 29th and Friday October 30th.

The change will only be implemented at the satellite voting locations, which means the hours will remain the same at the “main” government center. The additional two hours earlier on Thursday and Friday means satellite locations will now be open at 11am and remain open until 7pm.

These changes are in addition to the county government center being open to voters from 8am to 7pm through Friday. On top of that, the government center and all of the county’s 14 satellite locations will then be open from 9am to 5pm on Halloween (Saturday, October 31st).

For those who might not be able to make it to the polling locations until closer to closing time, it should be noted that you simply have to be in line by the listed time. On Friday, for instance, anybody who is in line by 7pm will be able to cast their ballot no matter how the wait. Since there were reports of Republican activists spreading misinformation about this at polling locations inside the county’s more diverse districts, community leaders have been actively working on ensuring Fairfax residents have accurate information about when the cutoff is for voters to be in line.

The hope is the increased hours at the satellite locations will help lower wait times that have been high due to so many people voting early in person. Through Saturday the 24th, for instance, 282,262 Fairfax County residents had already cast their ballot despite there still being a week left of early voting. In comparison, 118,843 voters voted early in the entire election back in 2016.

Considering how there’s been a steady flow of voters over the course of the last few days, this means 2020 will likely see at least three times as many Fairfax residents vote early than 2016.