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Even though I don't agree with many of your policy positions, I think you are absolutely right on this point. The idea of party bosses, either Republican or Democratic, making these kind of decisions without any voice from the grassroots is a major problem.

Craig Fifer

As you'll recall, Gov. McDonnell gave both parties only five days to hold a nominating process for this seat. We did the best we could under these difficult circumstances. The website at http://www.45thdistrict.org , which is unprecedented in Virginia as far as I know, was unusually detailed and transparent, and explained the process clearly. It showed that voters could participate during 11 hours, in two different locations, during daytime and evening hours, on a weekday and a non-weekday.

It also showed that while both polling places were in Alexandria, one was very close to the Arlington line and one was very close to the Fairfax line. The simple truth is that no suitable location was available in Fairfax during the timeframe required by the Governor, and even if one was it would have been very difficult to staff several locations on such short notice. Although Fairfax comprised only 6.4% of likely caucus voters under the Party Plan (and most of the geographic area of the Fairfax part of the district was uninhabited), the Nominating Committee would have preferred to have a location there. It just wasn't practical under the circumstances.

It's true that I held the majority of the vote on the Nominating Committee, but you wouldn't have known that from any of our actions. We made our decisions at widely noticed public meeting, which was attended by representatives of both campaigns, the media, and other interested members of the public. All of our votes, including to set the voting locations, were unanimous. While there was discussion of our desire to have voting locations in all three localities, the consensus of everyone in the room was that it wasn't practical. If the Fairfax chair objected, he never told us that. He and I emailed quite a few times during the process, and he never said anything about it. His hand-picked representative on the Nominating Committee didn't object, either -- and she voted for the locations.

The two Alexandria polling places were a closer walk or drive to every Arlington or Fairfax voter than to some Alexandria voters. People voted at the location most convenient to them at the time they voted, which may have been while they were out doing other things. For example, you voted at the location four miles from your home instead of the one just two miles away.

So your characterization of what happened is not accurate. I did not make decisions unilaterally, and they were not over any known objection by the Fairfax chair. Each caucus requires its own decisions about logistics based on the nature of the district and the circumstances of the election. There are no standing or default rules for locations for caucuses, so while you can cite tradition you can't say that any rules or locations were changed or cancelled.

More than 4.5% of all active registered voters in the district participated in the caucus (or 14.8% of voters for the Democrat in the last contested delegate election), which is especially remarkable given that they only had five days notice. Based on the actual turnout and the lack of complaints received by the Nominating Committee (including from the Fairfax chair or representative), the jurisdictional locations of the polling places just weren't an issue.


Ben, while I agree with you on the underlying principle of democratic process, your suggestion to Daniel is a major folly.

Your presumption that there is any kind of "cloud" over her nomination is wrong because no one cares about this. The pool of people potentially concerned is limited to local Democratic activists, and even among that very small group of individuals it's unlikely very many care.

But for Daniel to open up the process just puts a spotlight on an issue that can only hurt her candidacy. She won't be vindicated by doing such a thing, she'll just make people notice an apparently undemocratic process that they otherwise never would have noticed. Voters almost certainly still won't care, but it's at least a temporary distraction from her message in a difficult race where she cannot afford any distractions.

These types of things are best handled by local activists quietly.


I attended the meeting of which Craig speaks. As I recall, the discussion of whether to have a polling place in each of the three jurisdictions was more lengthy and heated than he describes, but in the end it was decided that due to time constraints and availability of places and staff, there would be only two polling places, both in Alexandria but at the far ends of the city so as to accomodate everyone as best we could. I also distinctly remember the discussion about the fact that Craig held the majority vote so nothing else mattered anyway. It was openly acknowledged at the beginning of the meeting, so if the Fairfax chair did not openly object then (I cannot recall whether a formal objection was lodged) it may have been because the Fairfax chair knew any complaint would have been futile. I was there along with several interested Dem activists and there were representatives from both campaigns. I do most definitely recall a rep from Karen's campaign objecting to having all the polling places in Alexandria only, but like me, she was not a voting member of the committee, and thus her objection wasn't "formal." I also recall discussion of a possible polling place in Fairfax that was ruled out because although it was available, it was one block outside the boundaries of the 45th,or just across the street or something like that. I know of several other persons who were there as well and perhaps they can add their recollections. This is not meant to be a slam at Craig or anything else. It's just what I remember from the meeting.


Thank you Gail. These types of decisions are best left with each county. If Craig had given each county the ability to have their own polling place- as well as the ability to waive that right- then there would be no problem with Fairfax voting in Alexandria. That unfortunately was not what happened and the result was the first multi-locality legislative caucus in recent Northern VA history to not have polling places in every locality it represented.

I also would challenge Craig's comments on the 5 days notice, Englin resigned in the spring, the special election was held in the fall. The 5 days is when the Governor called the election quickly- but everyone knew there was a vacancy coming and could have been prepared.

Craig Fifer

We didn't feel it was appropriate to hold a caucus until the election had actually been scheduled, and there was no pressure from anyone to do it earlier. So while we knew we'd be having a caucus at some point -- and we did take care of many of the preparations up front -- we didn't know the date and we didn't expect to get such short notice. There were venues in Fairfax that we could have used on other dates, but that were not available when we needed them. I basically called every public building in the Fairfax part of the 45th. I prepared a map for the meeting, and we had an open discussion in which everyone in the room could participate. The selection of locations was unanimous, and the weights of our votes never entered into that or any other decision.

All I can tell you is that the Arlington and Fairfax reps on the nominating committee and I worked in a completely cooperative and friendly manner, and I never asserted my majority vote in any way. If the Fairfax chair or Fairfax rep had objected to the locations, I'm sure one or the other or both would have said something to me or at the meeting. Feel free to ask them whether either of them ever did.


To be fair, I can confirm that the decision was unanimous by the committee. However,some of the other people attending - the non-members of the committee - were not happy with it. I was okay with it, given that it did seem that every possible venue had been considered and there just wasn't anything else available that was in the 45th. Craig is correct in that there was some prior planning, but Governor Vaginal Probe basically put us all under the gun. I also worked at the polls on the Saturday of voting. It was surprisingly well attended for a last minute election. That was at the polling place in Alexandria nearest to Arlington. I think it was the Jefferson Houston school. It's true that Craig never asserted his majority vote, but he didn't have to. A separate issue is how the committee was chosen. If I recall correctly, the Alex Dems Chair tapped Craig for the role and I don't know if there was ever consideration of anyone else. That's a separate issue - the same people getting tapped for this sort of thing over and over again. It becomes self-repeating: he's the parliamentarian and on DPVA, he's done this before, so he has experience, let's have him do it again... No one new is ever tapped.


I spoke to the Fairfax Chair at the time- he wanted a polling place for exactly the reasons discussed in the post above. End of story.


Who was the FFX rep on the committee? I do recall that person pushing for a Fairfax polling place but caving on that issue after discussion of availability, but not being happy about it. I don't recall the person's name. While it's true it was a unanimous vote, that's only because options were so limited.


I don't remember, and not sure I want to put names on the "google" that were not major players.

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