The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created a commission on Tuesday to investigate complaints about long lines at county polling stations, despite initially balking at the request and fearing it would interfere with a pending lawsuit filed against the county for its Election Day policies.
The board unanimously voted to support Chairwoman Sharon Bulova's request to form the commission, but only after supervisors met during closed session to discuss the lawsuit, filed by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, over a new set of restrictions placed on party observers at polling places.
The restrictions prevented observers from assisting voters who had questions about their ballot or the required documentation, which Democrats said would create confusion and cut down on the number of votes cast by residents.
A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge denied the Democrats' preliminary injunction just before the Nov. 6 election, but the lawsuit has yet to be resolved.
Supervisor Pat Herrity, R-Springfield, said the pending lawsuit probably would prohibit the county from "getting as far as we want to get" with the commission, and may end up helping the attorney for the Democratic Committee.
Still, the board unanimously approved the project.
"With the heat of the election behind us, I believe [we] should take this opportunity to examine what went well, what did not go well and what can be done to improve the electoral process," Bulova said.
More than 80 percent of the county's 1.1 million residents cast ballots during this year's election. The last vote in the county was cast at 10:30 p.m., Bulova said, meaning voters in line by the 7 p.m. close of polls had to wait three and a half hours before casting their ballots.
The newly established commission will examine the location and amount of parking available at each precinct, the training of poll workers and the absentee voting program, among other topics.