Grow your Small Business in Northern Virginia

The Northern Virginia (NOVA) area can sometimes be overshadowed by its proximity to Washington, DC, but the fact of the matter is that it’s a great place for business. Interestingly, the tax revenue the state of Virginia collects from the northern part of the state is enough to cover over half the state of Virginia’s yearly budget. The area is no doubt a booming place for businesses to thrive. Every year, many new businesses open their doors in NOVA and hope to take in some of the area’s wealth.  In total, the cities and counties that make up the northern VA area are among the wealthiest in the nation, which provides plenty of opportunities for small businesses owners to take advantage of. Not only are there plenty of wealthy customers in the area, but there’s also numerous successful business owners that you can learn and collaborate with. So now that we covered the basic economics of the area, let’s dive into how to successfully grow your small business in Northern Virginia.

northern va digital marketing agency

Starting a small business is not an easy task to do and is the reason over half of all small businesses close within a year of opening. Sure, you’ve done your market research, defined your target customer, and developed a business plan, but how do you think you’ll be able to successfully reach your target audience?  Unless you have successfully opened multiple businesses or have a business partner that has, then you’re basically taking a shot in the dark.  Every decision you make in the early stages of starting your business will ultimately determine the business’ fate and lifespan.

After analyzing hundreds of new businesses, the biggest pitfalls seen from new business owners is that they cut corners on some of the most important aspects of starting a business, while spending tons of money on things that don’t matter.  I can’t even begin to describe the amount of new business owners who throw up a cheap website with no care for how they’re business is perceived online.  On top of having a bad website, they then will have absolutely no budget for any type of marketing.  If you know someone like this, please show them the light!  Neglecting to have a professionally built and optimized website is the first step of the demise of so many small businesses.

nova digital marketing agency

Don’t neglect your small business, start it off the right way by hiring a professional digital marketing agency in Northern Virginia that will make sure your new business is set up for success.  Implementing the right digital marketing strategy for your small business is one of the only ways to forecast your company’s success. Sure, you could try to learn how to effectively do SEO, Social Media Marketing, PPC, Content Marketing, Reputation Management, Mobile Marketing, etc., but the time it would take to learn all those skills individually will most certainly take away time from running your business.  Therefore, successful business owners always hire professional digital marketers to do it the right way first. Your time is your most important asset, and you will be needing every second of it when you start a new business. Many successful new businesses in NOVA all share one thing in common and that is they all hired The W Agency – one of the top digital marketing agencies in Northern Virginia.

The W Agency handles all aspects of digital marketing in a strategic way, and uses proprietary search engine optimization methods that have been proven successful time and time again.  There are many other digital marketing agencies out there that charge exorbitant amounts of money for ineffective methods, so be careful who you decide to work with. Many small businesses I personally know of in the Northern Virginia area, have had great success after letting The W Agency take care of their digital marketing.

There you have it, how to successfully grow your small business in Northern Virginia. Now you know the pitfalls to avoid in starting a new business and how important a digital marketing strategy is for your business’ success.  Start by hiring the best digital marketing agency in Northern Virginia.

Advertisements

300+ APS teachers trained in multi-sensory education to combat dyslexia

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

 

More than 300 Arlington Public Schools teachers have been trained to help students with dyslexia by using an approach that combines various senses and teaches sounds before making them into words.

The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education’s Orton-Gillingham approach trains teachers to have students learn language by listening, speaking, reading and writing. So, for example, a dyslexic student is taught to see the letter A, say it and write it in the air at the same time.

Students are also taught to read and write various sounds in isolation before making them into words, and learn the history of the English language to understand its rules and patterns.

An APS spokesman said training is part of a concerted effort for teachers to support dyslexic students and help them get their reading and writing abilities up to a good standard.

“A few years ago, APS began training teachers to be able to support students with Dyslexia in their classroom,” the spokesman said. “The decision was based on research through the International Dyslexia Association on the best instructional practices for students with dyslexia. APS continues to have a focus on literacy for all of our students and making sure our teachers have the training, tools and resources to meet the needs of all of their learners.”

APS teachers are given awareness training on dyslexia through a 10-minute overview video, handouts with characteristics of dyslexia and training for school psychologists and special education coordinators to help them determine if a student is dyslexic and help parents understand how to help.

According to testimonies provided by IMSE, the use of the Orton-Gillingham approach is paying dividends.

“A student with an Individualized Education Program who came from kindergarten not knowing letters and letter sounds, with significant deficits in memory and attention, after a year with IMSE’s [Orton-Gillingham approach] now has consistent memory of their letter and letter sounds,” one APS first-grade teacher said in a statement. “The sentence dictation has resulted in growth of concept of word as evidenced by spelling, word space and sentence structure.”

The APS spokesman said the Orton-Gillingham approach is just one way the school system helps students with dyslexia. APS paid a discounted rate of $800 per teacher for the training.

“We have trained teachers from all of our schools in not only Orton Gillingham but other structured literacy approaches that provide systematic, explicit and multi-sensory instruction for students who have Dyslexia,” the spokesman said. “Our goal is to build capacity with all of our teachers to know about Dyslexia and then build capacity within each team to be able to offer a variety of interventions and supports for all of our students.”

The post 300+ APS teachers trained in multi-sensory education to combat dyslexia appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2zQHP7k

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia

Scheme involving snowplow contracts ends in guilty pleas

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A bribery scheme that involved Virginia Department of Transportation officials and snowplow companies has resulted in several guilty pleas.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that two VDOT officials took nearly a half-million dollars in cash bribes in exchange for rewarding valuable winter contracts.

The officials were 42-year-old Kenneth D. Adams and 55-year-old Anthony Willie. They were in charge of VDOT’s office in Burke, Virginia, until their arrest this year.

The contractors who pleaded guilty were 46-year-old Rolando Alfonso Pineda Moran, 50-year-old Elmer Antonio Mejia and 51-year-old John Lee Williamson.

Adams and Willie had the power to decide which contractors plowed roads during snowstorms. Court records stated that the men took a cut of the profits in exchange for those contracts.

The guilty pleas were entered in federal court in Alexandria.

___

Information from: The Washington Post, http://ift.tt/g5lp9S

The post Scheme involving snowplow contracts ends in guilty pleas appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2myie09

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia

To Really Move the Ball in Cybersecurity, It’s All About Cyber Hygiene

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

Gartner predicts there will be an estimated 8.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. Tenable President, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder Jack Huffard discusses how the proliferation of digital assets and connected devices are creating an exposure gap in cyber defenseand shares how organizations can fight back against cyber-attacks. Huffard participated on the Successful Cybersecurity Growth Companies In the Region panel at the Capital Cybersecurity Summit on Nov. 15, 2017.


jack-huffard-2015-2-webIt’s been more than two years since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) disclosed one of the largest data breaches in history, but just last week, the agency’s inspector general gave them a failing grade when it comes to critical areas like risk management and contingency planning.

In addition, the data breaches and attacks we’ve recently seen across a variety of industries, including entertainment, critical infrastructure, retail and finance, make it clear that all organizations are still failing when it comes to basic cyber hygiene.

Today, a company’s assets range not just from laptops to servers, but include mobile devices, internet-connected appliances and the cloud. The latest research shows the number of these assets are only going to increase. For example, Gartner predicts there will be an estimated 8.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. And according to a 2016 IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey, 70 percent of organizations already have apps in the cloud and 16 percent more will in 12 months. This modern, elastic attack surface, where the assets themselves and their associated vulnerabilities are constantly expanding, contracting and evolving, has created a massive gap in organizations’ ability to truly understand their cyber exposure at any given time.

Another major component of today’s elastic attack surface is operational technology (OT), particularly given the growth in the risk of cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure sectors. A recent Ponemon Institute study on the state of cybersecurity in the U.S. oil and gas industry found, for example, that OT targets now comprise 30 percent of all cyberattacks. Like cloud and IoT assets, the cyber exposure gap is exacerbated by the mismatch of cyber measures deployed by critical infrastructure companies and the rapid pace of digitization in operations. Operational technologies present an additional challenge – they often can’t be assessed with the same approaches as IT assets, creating blind spots for security operations and compliance teams.

We recently announced a partnership with global engineering and technology leader Siemens that aims to address those unique risks. The product, Industrial Security from Tenable, was designed specifically for industrial control systems and will be delivered through Siemens to give energy and utilities companies full visibility into production networks to reduce compliance risk and their cyber exposure.

Both public and private organizations in every sector need to change their approach to cyber risk to effectively manage their cyber exposure. That starts with understanding and protecting what matters most across their entire attack surface. And it means looking at server and endpoint hardening, IoT discovery and hardening, container and web app vulnerability identification and OT asset and vulnerability detection.

Understanding risk and cyber exposure is also an awareness issue that should start at the top. If the C-suite and board of directors know which areas of their business are secure or exposed, that knowledge can drive strategic business decisions, including where and how much to invest to reduce risk. Attackers will always find the weak link, and right now there are too many weak links – even more than companies are aware of.

This year alone, there were several high-profile, large-scale cyber-attacks, including the NotPetya destructionware, CrashOverride/Industroyer threats to critical infrastructure, and the Reaper IoT botnet. No organization wants to experience one of these security headlines firsthand, which claimed millions of dollars in company damage and compromised sensitive customer data. Only with a holistic approach that starts with basic cyber hygiene – visibility to identify all assets and their vulnerabilities – can companies secure today’s complex attack surface.

Share and Enjoy


FacebookTwitterDeliciousLinkedInStumbleUponAdd to favoritesEmailRSS

from http://ift.tt/2hJ7la6

Northern Virginia Digital Marketing Agency

To Really Move the Ball in Cybersecurity, It’s All About Cyber Hygiene

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

Gartner predicts there will be an estimated 8.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. Tenable President, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder Jack Huffard discusses how the proliferation of digital assets and connected devices are creating an exposure gap in cyber defenseand shares how organizations can fight back against cyber-attacks. Huffard participated on the Successful Cybersecurity Growth Companies In the Region panel at the Capital Cybersecurity Summit on Nov. 15, 2017.


jack-huffard-2015-2-webIt’s been more than two years since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) disclosed one of the largest data breaches in history, but just last week, the agency’s inspector general gave them a failing grade when it comes to critical areas like risk management and contingency planning.

In addition, the data breaches and attacks we’ve recently seen across a variety of industries, including entertainment, critical infrastructure, retail and finance, make it clear that all organizations are still failing when it comes to basic cyber hygiene.

Today, a company’s assets range not just from laptops to servers, but include mobile devices, internet-connected appliances and the cloud. The latest research shows the number of these assets are only going to increase. For example, Gartner predicts there will be an estimated 8.4 billion IoT devices by 2020. And according to a 2016 IDG Enterprise Cloud Computing Survey, 70 percent of organizations already have apps in the cloud and 16 percent more will in 12 months. This modern, elastic attack surface, where the assets themselves and their associated vulnerabilities are constantly expanding, contracting and evolving, has created a massive gap in organizations’ ability to truly understand their cyber exposure at any given time.

Another major component of today’s elastic attack surface is operational technology (OT), particularly given the growth in the risk of cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure sectors. A recent Ponemon Institute study on the state of cybersecurity in the U.S. oil and gas industry found, for example, that OT targets now comprise 30 percent of all cyberattacks. Like cloud and IoT assets, the cyber exposure gap is exacerbated by the mismatch of cyber measures deployed by critical infrastructure companies and the rapid pace of digitization in operations. Operational technologies present an additional challenge – they often can’t be assessed with the same approaches as IT assets, creating blind spots for security operations and compliance teams.

We recently announced a partnership with global engineering and technology leader Siemens that aims to address those unique risks. The product, Industrial Security from Tenable, was designed specifically for industrial control systems and will be delivered through Siemens to give energy and utilities companies full visibility into production networks to reduce compliance risk and their cyber exposure.

Both public and private organizations in every sector need to change their approach to cyber risk to effectively manage their cyber exposure. That starts with understanding and protecting what matters most across their entire attack surface. And it means looking at server and endpoint hardening, IoT discovery and hardening, container and web app vulnerability identification and OT asset and vulnerability detection.

Understanding risk and cyber exposure is also an awareness issue that should start at the top. If the C-suite and board of directors know which areas of their business are secure or exposed, that knowledge can drive strategic business decisions, including where and how much to invest to reduce risk. Attackers will always find the weak link, and right now there are too many weak links – even more than companies are aware of.

This year alone, there were several high-profile, large-scale cyber-attacks, including the NotPetya destructionware, CrashOverride/Industroyer threats to critical infrastructure, and the Reaper IoT botnet. No organization wants to experience one of these security headlines firsthand, which claimed millions of dollars in company damage and compromised sensitive customer data. Only with a holistic approach that starts with basic cyber hygiene – visibility to identify all assets and their vulnerabilities – can companies secure today’s complex attack surface.

Share and Enjoy


FacebookTwitterDeliciousLinkedInStumbleUponAdd to favoritesEmailRSS

from http://ift.tt/2hJ7la6

Northern Virginia Digital Marketing Agency

Puerto Rico will always be home for family in Virginia now

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

WASHINGTON (AP) — Maria Mercedes Olivieri stands in the parlor of her home in Burke, Virginia, poring over the rough outline of a four-generation family tree she’s drawn. A discussion of what she calls her family’s “continuous circular movement” between Puerto Rico and the mainland United States in the past half-century demands a visual aid.

She came to Virginia “41 years ago for one year,” she said, and ended up staying for government jobs and to raise a family, even after she divorced.

A cousin divides her time between Puerto Rico and nearby Alexandria, where she bought a house last year to be closer to her grandchildren. Over the years, other relatives came to the mainland, too — to New York, to Florida, to California. But Puerto Rico has always been home.

Olivieri’s mother lives there, as do her sisters, nieces and nephews. That may be why she describes herself as “an accidental immigrant.” She never planned to stay in the United States.

“I would have gone back to the island in a heartbeat,” she said. “That’s where family is.”

But family is now here in Virginia. Hurricane Maria tore through the island Sept. 20, knocking down homes, contaminating drinking water and leaving much of the territory without electricity. Her sister packed up their 92-year-old mother, an uncle, 95, and his 93-year-old wife and took refuge in Virginia. A niece stayed but sent her 8-year-old son to live with his grandfather in Orlando, where he could enroll in school.

Olivieri, 70, and her extended family are trying to acclimate to their upended lives. For some, that means picking up a new language or a new job, making room for displaced relatives, or learning to live apart. And it means figuring out what home means now.

Officials estimate that 100,000 Puerto Ricans left the island after Maria, extending a mass migration that began decades ago. Even before the devastating storm knocked out its entire power grid and destroyed its rain forest, Puerto Rico was deeply in debt, losing jobs, professionals, young people and hope for the future. Indeed, more Puerto Ricans live in the mainland United States than in Puerto Rico.

“This movement from Puerto Rico to here has been going on since I was small,” said Enid Olivieri, Maria’s 65-year-old sister. “Almost everyone has someone who is here.”

Unlike her sister, Enid Olivieri raised her family in Puerto Rico, working as a pastor. When her husband, a chemical engineer, lost his job in 2010, they contemplated moving to the mainland. Their daughter had gone to school in France, then ended up in Long Island, where she is raising a grandchild. But, questions about finding work aside, they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around the prospect of shoveling snow.

So Enid Olivieri stayed — and endured Hurricane Maria. It quickly became clear that clean drinking water wouldn’t last and electricity wasn’t consistent enough to power the breathing machine she uses to battle sleep apnea. The family decided she should lead their elders on a sojourn from San Juan to Virginia in what Maria Olivieri called a “parade of wheelchairs.”

The plane tickets were one-way, and the oldest members of the family were not happy.

“I was dragged,” said Maria Mercedes Ramos Rodriguez, mother of the Olivieri sisters.

Carlos Ramos Rodriguez, her brother, and his wife, Luz Selenia Gonzalez, ended up staying with Eris Trinidad, a 69-year-old cousin who lives in Alexandria.

Trinidad and her husband have been traveling between Puerto Rico and the mainland for more than a year now. They bought a house in Virginia in 2016 because three of their children live there or nearby — two working for the federal government, one serving in the Army at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. But their parents remain in Puerto Rico and require care.

The couple was in Alexandria, caring for their grandchildren, when Maria struck — a blessing, Trinidad said.

Enid Olivieri’s niece, 32-year-old Josely Davila, has always lived in Puerto Rico. After Maria’s devastation, she made the difficult decision to send her 8-year-old son, Yasel, to Florida to live with his grandfather in Orlando. She stayed behind in San Juan, returning to her job as a 911 operator.

Davila saw no other option. She wanted to go to Florida herself but couldn’t without a job.

“I was desperate,” she said. “I wanted to get him there so he could be fine, so he could have (electricity), so he could be in peace, so he could be safe.”

The transition came with daily phone calls — and tears.

Gustavo Velez, the boy’s 67-year-old grandfather, moved to Florida from Puerto Rico about five years ago after retiring from a long career in the pharmaceutical industry. He doesn’t have the energy he once had to care for children, but he thinks his grandson is better off on the mainland.

“To come to the States is not easy,” Velez said. “There is a problem with the language. There is a problem with the culture and the philosophy of life.” But: “The future is not in Puerto Rico.”

Elizabeth Aranda, a sociology professor at the University of South Florida and the author of “Emotional Bridges to Puerto Rico: Migration, Return Migration, and the Struggles of Incorporation,” said the island was in the middle of a “cultural trauma” as families leave, contemplate leaving or deal with life on the ground after others have left. Her parents, now in their 70s, plan to sell their home in Puerto Rico and relocate to Florida to be closer to their grandchildren, Aranda said.

“So many people are experiencing patchworking — getting people into safe places to create normalcy,” she said. “But at the end of the day, home is home.”

Maria Mercedes Olivieri said she knows there are members of her family who are eager to return to Puerto Rico. She is planning to host them at her home for Thanksgiving.

In the past, she put out a spread that’s “not a typical American Thanksgiving,” she said, including paella, pumpkin-coconut flan and pernil — Puerto Rican roasted pork shoulder. Over the years, family began requesting that most American of Thanksgiving foods: turkey.

“We compromise,” she said.

But at least one guest has already sent her regrets. Enid Olivieri returned to Puerto Rico on Nov. 10.

___

Information from: The Washington Post, http://ift.tt/g5lp9S

The post Puerto Rico will always be home for family in Virginia now appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2zcj4FD

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia

Stolen garage door openers lead to Fair Oaks, Reston burglaries

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

WASHINGTON — Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, are investigating a series of burglaries that happened this week, adding to a pattern of crimes in Northern Virginia that involves stolen garage door openers.

The burglaries occurred at four homes, and all the incidents appear to be connected.

The burglar managed to get away with valuables, including a purse and wallets, Fairfax County police said.

A garage door opener had been stolen from each victim’s unlocked car, according to a news release from the Fairfax County Police Department.

On Wednesday in the early morning hours, police say someone stole the garage door openers and used them to break into two homes in the Fair Oaks district, not far from Inova Fair Oak Hospital.

The following day, the same thing happened at a pair of homes in Reston, in neighborhoods adjacent to Reston Hospital Center.

In three of the cases, homeowners spotted the suspect, describing him as a black man in his late teens to early 20s and around 6 feet tall. Officials say the man was described as slender and possibly weighing between 175 and 200 pounds.

The burglaries occurred at the following locations:

  • 3700 block of Valley Oaks Drive, Fairfax;
  • 12700 block of Hunt Manor Court, Fairfax;
  • 12100 block of Abington Hall Place, Reston;
  • 12000 block of Edgemere Circle, Reston.

Anyone with information about any of these burglaries is asked to call Fairfax County police at 703-691-2131.

This is not the first time stolen garage door openers have been used to break into homes in Northern Virginia.

Similar crimes were reported last month in Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Loudoun County authorities say five burglaries were reported around Sterling and, in each case, the suspect used a garage door opener taken from unlocked cars parked in driveways to gain entry.

In Prince William County, police say surveillance video captured suspects using garage door openers to break into several homes in Manassas.

Following those incidents, residents were urged to close garage doors when not outside, lock vehicles, exterior and interior garage doors, and avoid leaving garage door openers inside cars.

“Securing your windows and doors will greatly reduce the opportunity for a burglar to enter your home,” said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman. “We encourage residents to remain vigilant and report all suspicious activity immediately.”

The post Stolen garage door openers lead to Fair Oaks, Reston burglaries appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2ySwO4i

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia

Northam to move Layne from transportation to finance

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s secretary of transportation will be moving to a new role in Gov.-elect Ralph Northam’s administration: secretary of finance.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Northam announced Aubrey Layne’s appointment at a news conference Thursday, praising Layne’s accomplishments with his current portfolio and his command of trust and respect from both sides of the aisle. Layne is a Republican, and will have served in two successive Democratic administrations with this appointment.

Layne says his main goal as finance secretary will be to protect taxpayers and Virginia’s AAA bond rating.

As transportation secretary, the Hampton Roads native reformed the operations of public-private partnerships and dealt with contentious issues, including the Virginia Beach light-rail project.

He donated $2,500 to Northam’s campaign after Republican candidate Ed Gillespie came out against a transportation tax.

___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

The post Northam to move Layne from transportation to finance appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2AO8scl

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia

2 injured in trailer fire in Fairfax County

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

WASHINGTON — Two people were injured after a trailer caught fire Friday morning in Fairfax County, Virginia.

One victim was transported to a burn center via helicopter. The other victim was transported to the hospital by ambulance.

Both have injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening, according to Willie Bailey, spokesman of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

The incident happened around 1:30 a.m. on Eagle Avenue in the Hybla Valley area.

There were three adults and one cat in the trailer home. The Red Cross is offering its assistance.

Below is a map of where Bailey says the incident occurred.

function initMapArticle() {

var lnglat = {lat: 38.745529, lng: -77.091208};
var map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById(‘map_article’), {

zoom: 13,
center: lnglat

});
var trafficLayer = new google.maps.TrafficLayer();
trafficLayer.setMap(map);
var marker = new google.maps.Marker({
position: lnglat,
map: map,
title: ”
});
}

http://ift.tt/2tzY1Hb

The post 2 injured in trailer fire in Fairfax County appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2j2BGx1

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia

Va. native who drove ‘murder mobile’ to be sentenced for killing 7 in Conn.

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — An East Coast drifter who killed seven people in Connecticut in 2003 is set to be sentenced to life in prison.

A state judge in New Britain is expected to hand down a 360-year prison sentence Friday for William Devin Howell, who pleaded guilty to six murder charges in September. He’s also serving a 15-year prison sentence for manslaughter in the seventh victim’s death.

The Hampton, Virginia, native is believed to be the most prolific serial killer in Connecticut history — not counting mass shootings. The bodies of six women and a man were found buried behind a strip mall in New Britain.

Police say Howell called his van the “murder mobile” and told a prison cellmate there was a monster inside him. Authorities said three victims were sexually assaulted.

The post Va. native who drove ‘murder mobile’ to be sentenced for killing 7 in Conn. appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2zb2ZzW

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia

Expert: Postal Service change may be key to late-arriving absentee ballots in tight Va. races

Grow Your Business in Northern Virginia with digital marketing services from The W Agency

WASHINGTON — Changes at the U.S. Postal Service may be a key reason hundreds of absentee ballots submitted across Virginia will not count — including 55 ballots in tight races in Stafford County.

Former Virginia Board of Elections Secretary Don Palmer, now a fellow with the Bipartisan Policy Center focused on election improvements, said changes that added two days to standard processing times for First Class mail, among other things, have made it less likely that even ballots mailed the Friday before an election arrive in time to be counted. In Virginia, only ballots received before polls close can be counted under current law; the postmark does not matter.

“There’s less [service] over the weekend for postal processing, and so the voter needs to be aware that it’s going to take longer for their absentee ballot … to get to an election office,” Palmer said in an interview.

“This was all sort of due to cost savings, and so it’s been going on for a number of election cycles, but, for example, the [reductions in] processing over the weekend is something that’s fairly new, and it added another wrinkle,” he said.

The Virginia Department of Elections has a notice to mail-in voters on its absentee ballot page that softly suggests voters return ballots early:

The USPS delivery standards changed early last year so that First Class delivery went from 1-3 days to 2-5 days and Standard delivery is now 2-9 days. Please take this into consideration as you start thinking about absentee voting.

Even though the Postal Service changed standard processing times, Virginia law has not changed the deadline to request an absentee ballot from the Tuesday before Election Day, which creates a tight, if not impossible, turnaround to get a ballot, vote and return it in time.

‘Sort of misleading’

“It is sort of misleading to the voter if there’s such a late deadline, there’s a false sense of reliability that this ballot’s going to get back when there’s a good chance it might not,” Palmer said. He was appointed to the State Board of Elections in 2011 by Gov. Bob McDonnell, serving through mid-2014, after running earlier elections in Florida.

“The bottom line is that you need to get it in a little bit earlier than you had … needed to in the past if you’re going to vote by mail, and that just means you need to plan for it; you need to request your ballot earlier, get it, vote it, and then send it back with plenty of time to spare,” he added.

He suggested lawmakers in Richmond consider moving the deadline to request a mail-in absentee ballot farther away from Election Day, and would also like the Postal Service to do more weekend mail processing of elections materials.

“The Postal Service should really look at making an exception for election mail. It isn’t like every weekend in this country that we have elections …. That would obviously help with some of the issues of ballots not making it in time for elections,” Palmer said.

Still, an email sent by Stafford County Registrar Greg Riddlemoser to state elections officials the day after the election expressed significant frustration that the 55 late-arriving absentee ballots were not delivered on time. His office had called the Postal Service every hour or so after a 2:30 p.m. mail delivery to check for any additional ballots. Only one more ballot was hand delivered from the Richmond mail processing center around 6 p.m., Riddlemoser said.

At 10 a.m. the next day, 55 absentee ballots had arrived — too late to be counted.

“There is no possible way in my military mind that these ballots should not have been available to us on Election Day before close-of-polls. How can there be zero, zero, zero — all afternoon and evening and then suddenly 55? We have a [Board of Supervisors] race with a tiny delta. We have a [House of Delegates] race with a very small delta. Maybe 55 would have swung one or both?” Riddlemoser wrote in the email.

Since the ballots remain sealed, it is not clear whether any or all are from the Garrisonville District or the 28th house of delegates District. Each race is expected to go to a recount after the State Board of Elections certifies results Monday. A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Democratic candidate Joshua Cole aims to delay the certification to potentially get those ballots counted. Cole trails Republican Bob Thomas by 82 votes in their race to replace retiring House Speaker Bill Howell.

Hundreds of late ballots

While the 55 ballots in Stafford have generated significant attention, hundreds of others also arrived late across the commonwealth.

In Fairfax County, Registrar Cameron Sasnett received 158 absentee ballots on Wednesday, Nov. 8, and 365 on Thursday, Nov. 9.

In response to a request for comment from WTOP, a Postal Service spokeswoman pointed to a series of online materials for elections officials that outline general policies for election mail, including a recommendation that local officials regularly check in with their local post office coordinator for deliveries on Election Day.

A separate inspector general’s report released this summer suggested the Postal Service underreported late-arriving mail by about than 2 billion pieces in the 12 months beginning in March 2016, which the report said affected the Postal Service’s ability to meet its mail service commitments.

The Postal Service does partner on efforts to offer bar code tracking of absentee ballots. Palmer said that has not always worked perfectly in the parts of Virginia that have tried it, but it could increase confidence in the system.

“It allows the voter to track their ballot — and this has been significant for overseas military voters particularly — they’re able to track where their ballot is being processed and when it was processed by the Postal Service, and it also informs them when the ballot was delivered, so this is a good tool for voters to know that ‘Yes, my ballot actually made it’ or ‘It looks like it may not make it in time.’ It also gives the election office the ability to track that ballot,” Palmer said.

Voters casting absentee ballots in the future need to be more aware of the Postal Service policies, he suggested.

“There has to be an informational campaign that the mail service is just going to take a little bit longer than it used to in the past, and that you’ve got to give yourself time to get that ballot back. You cannot wait until the last minute, otherwise there’s a good chance that your ballot won’t make it in time and it won’t be counted, Palmer said.

“The State Board of Elections and the political parties have a responsibility to try to inform folks that want to vote by mail that they need to give themselves additional time, and the legislature should look at making the absentee ballot request, pushing it back a little so folks have additional time to get their ballot and return,” he said.

The post Expert: Postal Service change may be key to late-arriving absentee ballots in tight Va. races appeared first on WTOP.

from http://ift.tt/2jwKBKV

Digital Marketing Agency in Northern Virginia