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UPDATED: County Counting Petition Signatures

by ARLnow.com July 15, 2010 at 4:00 pm 3,467 64 Comments

Update at 10:05 a.m. — An additional 54 petition sheets have just been submitted to the county clerk’s office, and another batch may be on the way, we’re told.

Update at 12:05 p.m. — Unofficial signature count from the first batch: 15,482.

Update at 4:00 p.m. — The county clerk has received a final batch of three petition sheets. Applying the average number of signatures per sheet from the initial batch, the 57 sheets submitted today should yield about 1,254 signatures, for a rough total of 16,736 signatures submitted. That’s 2,385 more than the 14,350 signatures required by law. The big question going forward: will it be enough to make up for the inevitable number of invalid signatures?

Update at 4:15 p.m. — Committee for a Better Arlington representative: “We’re very happy with the number [of signatures] we turned in today and we’re looking forward to being on the ballot in November.”

Update at 5:00 p.m. — Statement from the Coalition for Arlington Good Government, which opposes the change-of-government proposal: “CAGG has confidence in the Registrar’s ability to complete this step in a thorough, accurate manner. If the proposed referendum gets on the ballot, CAGG remains committed to ongoing voter education efforts. CAGG looks forward to continuing a community dialogue about how to promote good government in Arlington.”

Update at 11:00 p.m. — Election officials say they have verified 1,548 names so far.

Arlington County election personnel are conducting an initial count of signatures on change-of-government petitions. A total of 704 double-sided petition sheets were submitted to the county yesterday morning.

The initial count should be completed within an hour. Change-of-government supporters have told the county to expect another batch of petitions to be submitted by the end-of-the-day deadline.

After the deadline, county workers will begin the monumental task of verifying each name by hand. That is expected to take until August 9 or 10, said county registrar Linda Lindberg.

Despite earlier talk of bringing in elections personnel from other jurisdictions to help out, Lindberg said she expects to be able to complete the verification with existing staff members.

The last time a petition made its way through Arlington was 1993.

Actually, there were two petitions. One was to change the school board from an appointed body to an elected body. That measure would ultimately be approved by voters in a referendum. Another proposal, which received enough petition signatures but ultimately not enough referendum votes, was to allow off-track betting parlors in the county.

  • How did you get a picture of them counting the signatures?

    • The initial signature counting is public. Signature verification is closed.

      • Dan

        So where are they being counted ??
        I hope there is a provision for outside observation.
        I don’t think that the county can be trusted at this juncture given the public comments made by Fisette at the board meetings.

        • Don

          It is not what the County Board states. The verification is done by Arlington Election Board.

          • Mike

            I’ll give election officials the benefit of the doubt unless they do something to lose that trust.

            Besides, it seems there are 10+ people working on this. If you think that many people could commit fraud and keep quiet about it you probably think the lunar landings were staged.

          • Mike, paranoia is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        • Steve

          What form of the Hatch Act applies at this level of government?

      • Courthouse Resident

        It looks like there’s a mic in the shot – were there other media present?

  • Mike

    There was a article describing the signature verification process. I don’t have the link but IIRC it seemed like a reasonable process.

  • How many lines for signatures are on a sheet?

  • Miles –

    12 lines, front and back (so 24)

    This means that over 18, 000 signatures have been submitted thus far.

    • AllenB

      That’s assuming they are all full.

    • You’re assuming every line on every form has been filled out??? Seems extremely unlikely.

    • Anthony

      25 sigs per page, front and back.

  • Close Shave

    Even if there are 18,000 signatures turned in, that’s not enough to guarantee 14,350 valid signatures–so many end up being duplicates or have other problems with them.

    • ArlingtonAaron

      Yep… which should be interesting. Especially when using paid signature collectors, only having a 20% buffer when the signers have to be non-duplicate registered voters from inside the county seems a bit tight.

  • Well the situation I presented was ideal…I know more are coming in around today. Either way, more than the required amount will be turned in so that there are 14350 valid signatures…

  • Close Shave

    I don’t know how they check these but I hope they’re rigorous with them. The signature collectors were wildly shady.

    • MB

      Yes they were. I wouldn’t have hired them to take out the trash.

      • John Antonelli

        Well looks like they did the job well enough to get this on the ballot. Bottom line Arlingtonians want democracy and accountability and they know its fine to sign heheheheheh

        • MB

          “Hehehehehehe” yes, is that the laugh of someone who knows what a bunch of dishonest liars they had to hire in order to get this done? It doesn’t impress me in the least that the proponents were able to hire people who were willing to lie to Arlingtonians in an effort to get them to sign. So you and yours pulled one over on the public, and now we’ll have to waste lots of time and money explaining your dishonesty. “Hehehehehe.” Congratulations, John.

          • Mike

            Settle down BM. Now you can have several months crying about this.

          • Steve

            Sounds like Obama’s campaign strategy two years ago in retrospect. Arlington fell for that too.

    • dpan

      There’s a VERY informative “Frequently Asked Questions” page in the Arlington County Board of Election section of the county website: http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/voterregistration/ElectionInformation/PetitionFAQs2010.aspx

      Here’s a few highlights, but if you’re at all interested I really recommend checking the link above–very well-written and informative. Kudos to their staff!

      Q: How will you check the names?
      A: We check each name against the Virginia Election and Registration Information System (VERIS), which is the database of registered voters in Virginia. VERIS has a special module just for petition checking. We basically look up each name on the page and determine whether the person qualifies as a registered voter in Arlington. If so, we mark the name both electronically on VERIS and manually on the petition page as accepted. VERIS keeps a running tally for us, so we always know where we are in terms of numbers.

      Q: Will the petition be available for public inspection?
      A: Yes, it is our intent that copies of each petition page, after we’ve finished validating, will be available for public inspection. We are planning to post them online, which means they’ll be available from this page.

      Q: Do you check the actual signatures against your records?
      A: Not as a general rule, as long as we can identify the voter. We might check if we have more than one person with a particular name on the rolls and neither is at the address provided on the petition. That way we are sure to count to the correct voter, in the event the voter has moved since signing.

      • Good Government

        Providing useful information to the citizens of the County online: Yet another waste of taxpayer money! Let’s change our form of government so that this will not happen anymore!

        • ArlingtonAaron

          As usual the Registrar’s office staff communicates clearly and effectively… and its probably important to note that a majority of the Electoral Board who are responsible for this count are Republicans.

          • jmt

            Actually, the Electoral Board, which has nothing to do with the petition validation process anyway, has 2 Ds and 1 R member at present. It won’t switch to 2 Rs and a D until next year, when Dave Bell’s term expires.

  • charlie

    i know many people in the court house residential area signed it several times because they were told each petition would b counted seperately.

  • MB

    Forgive my laziness: what were the requirements for the signature collectors, again? As in, do they really have to be County residents? Or is that just the person to attests to each signature sheet? Thanks in advance to anyone who can answer.

    • Shady Non-Arlington Resident Signature Collector

      From the same Q&A cited above:

      Q: What are some examples of possible petition fraud?

      A: First of all, the person circulating the petition page — the one actually asking voters to sign — must be eligible to vote for the proposed question. Although we do check the names of circulators against the registered voters list, we will accept a name if the person is not registered but provides a valid Arlington residence address on the affidavit section of the petition. The law only requires the circulator to be eligible to vote, not actually registered, at the time the petition is circulated.

      Second, the persons signing the petition affirm they are eligible registered voters in Arlington. We can only check names against records on our rolls. It is possible an individual may have moved from Arlington, meaning he would no longer be eligible to vote for the question, yet still be registered to vote in Arlington. The petition requires the voter to affirm his current residence address. If the person uses a former address, he is providing false information.

      Again, any allegations of fraud, along with appropriate evidence thereof, should be presented to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

  • John

    Sounds like it will be very close. I suspect they need about 20k or so signatures. Keep in mind though that you need legible names and addresses that can match to current voter registration. Any error can be grounds to dq the signature. Given they complexity I think a reject rate of 25% is likely meaning it will be very close.

    • Mike

      Read the FAQ from the registrar. They have multiple staff checking names if they aren’t legible, and they cross reference aggainzt address. It is amazing how the ACDC rats are trying to find ways to disenfranchise voters. Maybe they can find a way to give military voters an extra screw job

      • ArlingtonAaron

        A majority of the Electoral board is Republican… but by all means don’t let the facts get in the way of your paranoia.

  • Mike

    BTW, Better Arlington claims they submitted over 17K.

  • Efrem

    God Bless America!

    Dear Better Arlington Supporters,

    Today at 3pm we submitted our final batch of signatures to the Arlington Circuit Court Clerk. In total, we collected over 17,000 signatures! We have said this before but we think it is important to say again: We could not have made it this far without your dedication and support.

    Since last fall, we have visited every corner of Arlington meeting voters at civic associations, grocery stores, farmers’ markets and even dance classes. With your help, we showed Arlingtonians that it is time to update our form of government to the 21st century with a system that is accountable and fair to everyone – not just those that live within a certain zip code.

    Your willingness to talk to your neighbors, friends and colleagues helped get us to this point. We believe the amount of signatures we turned in is enough to get us on the ballot.

    The Registrar now has the task of verifying all the signatures. This could take up to one month. If the Registrar verifies 14,350 signatures by the middle of August, we will see this referendum on the November ballot.

    While we wait for the signatures to be verified, we encourage you to continue this dialogue. Our activities will slow down over the next month but we will keep you posted on how the process is unfolding.

    We also want to thank our campaign manager, Dena Kozanas, for her commitment to this issue. She came on board halfway through the process and used her talents to keep us afloat all these months. Now that Phase I of the campaign is over and we have submitted all the signatures necessary to get on the ballot, Dena will move on to another campaign. She will be missed but we know she will continue to help us in a volunteer advisory capacity when Phase II begins.

    Again, thank you for all your kind words, hours of collecting signatures and overall support of such an important issue that will help make a Better Arlington.


    Mike Staples, Co-Chair
    President, Arlington Professional Firefighters & Paramedics Association

    Ken Dennis, Co-Chair
    President, Arlington Coalition of Police

    Committee for a Better Arlington
    2200 Wilson Blvd, Suite 102, #181
    Arlington, VA 22201
    (703) 539-2381
    [email protected]

  • Let’s Be Free

    This is a win/win. If the County gins up ways to discount enough signatures to keep COG off the ballet then we’re gonna have 15,000 hopping mad voters who want nothing more than to get Chris Streetcarman off the Board. All these voters need to do is get one or two allies each and then Streetcarman will be history; we can look forward to the day that Metro will be safe and secure again.

  • Mike

    ARLNOW states that the registrar will verify signatures “by hand”. That is incorrect. They verify VOTERS

    Q: Do you check the actual signatures against your records?

    A: Not as a general rule, as long as we can identify the voter. We might check if we have more than one person with a particular name on the rolls and neither is at the address provided on the petition. That way we are sure to count to the correct voter, in the event the voter has moved since signing

    • Nope, that’s not what we’re saying. Just using “signature” as shorthand for the information provided on the petition form.

      • Mike

        Typically when one verifies a signature, they compare it to an original.

        I understand your intent, but just trying to clear things up so people don’t think there is going to be a handwriting analysis performed on every person that signed. They check the voter rolls to see if the person exists and the signature itself is a backup.

  • Shady Non-Arlington Resident Signature Collector

    What’s clear is that the Committee will likely get away with having hired a bunch of out of County people to collect these signatures. Just one more way they’re dishonest as hell. Further proof that this is all about one person’s pride and has nothing to do with what’s good for the County.

    • Matt

      The only shadyness I saw while collecting signatures was from those obstructing the ballot process. Calling attention to Ron Carlee’s memo about communication with elected officials is the opposite of Shady it is using sunlight and FOIAs to make a political point!

    • JR

      such fear from the anti-ballot people… amazing. you don’t have a valid reason to oppose the effort – so you just criticize everything else. so sad.

    • Steve

      They should have taken lessons from ACORN about who and where to hire. On this I agree.

  • Efrem

    Zimmielocks and the entire ACDC hierarchy is hiding under a rock at this moment in total denial of the COG petition effort.

    I am sure the ACDC hierarchy has alreay met afterhours with Paul Ferguson to strategize on ways to keep this measure off the ballot.

    The Committee for a Better Arlington should continue with a series of community listening sessions to document what concerns disgruntled Arlingon citizens have against the current regime and form of government.

  • North Arlington Common Sense

    Let’s stay away from the pejoratives. What matters is getting this onto the ballot. To the winner goes the spoils.

    I don’t understand why there is such fuss, and why the CBA people are going through this. CBA should be at 25 or 30k in signatures. There are a number of simple steps they should have taken.

    1. Hire a bunch of College Republicans looking to make some money for the summer.

    2. Seat them assembly-line at a table. Give them a marked roster of Arlington residents, with a number from 1 to 24. Assign a number to each of the CRs.

    3. Have the CRs hand-copy the info, and sign on behalf of the voter.

    4. So long as you purge the list of ACDC types and other known socialists (I mean you, VOICE activists), you’ll be fine. You don’t have to worry about the Arlington GOPers, nor about anyone who has a “Fraternal Order of Police” sticker. From there just fill in people and go from there.

    It’s far too hard to prove fraud. The smarter thing would have been to put Arlington residents out on the streets for show. The real work, though, should have been done in the quarters of someplace like the Leadership Institute. Not with Craigslist hires from Regents Law School that everyone met in Westover or Clarendon or wherever.

    Use some common sense. You have the money, the technology, and now the legal backup down in Richmond. There is no excuse for failure.

    • MB


  • Last Friday I heard Mr. Tejada on WAMU. He stated that even if the signatures are legit and the voters pass the referendum, the county board ultimately votes on the actual change in Arlington’s government. Do you really expect they will unseat themselves?


    • Mike

      Token Tejada wasn’t picked by the ACDC for his intelligence.

    • Just the Facts

      I just listened to the clips you link to and Tejada doesn’t say that the current County Board also has to vote for the COG, even if approved by a referendum. I’m no Tejada fan (consistently vote against him) but I’m just saying it’s not in the clips you link to.

      Can you (or anyone) provide a direct source/quote for Tejada saying this, either on the Kojo Nnamdi Show or anywhere else?

      For the record, the current County Board would establish the voting districts if the COG referendum were to be approved, so they will have some control over how the change is implemented.

      • Matt H

        Go to minute 18 within the clip from the link below. This is a link to the entire Kojo show from last week Friday.

        He says, “ultimately board members decide” on the form of government. When Tom Sherwood suggests they could make a decision to keep the same type of government, he doesn’t deny it could happen. Could there be a loophole we aren’t aware of?


        • Just the Facts

          Thanks, that was what I was looking for. He kind of hedges and, at one point, does say that if the referendum is approved it “will go to districts” but he kind of hedges on whether the Board has to approve it or not (which it does not). So scary that he’s not fully informed about the process. He’s just not that smart. Say what you will about Favola, Zimmerman and Fisette, but they at least seem to be intelligent. I haven’t had much of a chance to observe Hynes.

  • Matt

    Using FOIA requests is not shady it is sunlight! Something that the County Manager Plan continues to obstruct to this day!

  • Efrem

    Walter Tejada is wrong.

    § 15.2-303. When new supervisors elected.

    If voters approve the adoption of an optional form of government in accordance with § 15.2-301, the members of the governing body shall be elected at the next succeeding November general election. The members’ terms shall commence on January 1 following the election.

  • John

    You do realize that ranting about ACORN, calling Walter Tejada a token, and attacking Obama is not really going to win you votes in Arlington. You want to participate in te civic life of the community, then you should learn to be civil.

    • JR

      Being right isn’t always popular. but that’s not really the point.

      • John

        Apparently you don’t understand that winning elections is about winning the popular votes. Ad hominen attacks are not the path to any truth. Being right is about providing logical arguments based on evidence relevant to the matter at hand. Raise your level of discourse and manners and perhaps you will convince people of the validity of your cause. Elephants never defeat donkeys by behaving like asses.

  • MarcyG

    Yesterday a man approached me as I was leaving the Cherrydale Safeway and asked if I would sign a petition to support our local firefighters. Turned out it was the change of local government petition. I signed anyway, because the petition specifically said it wasn’t a pledge to vote a certain way. But very misleading salesmanship.

    • Chris

      Did they decline to explain it to you once you stopped and asked about it? It’s not misleading, it’s a hook to get your attention. It is true that by signing you were supporting our local firefighters (in their ballot initiative).

      • Matt H

        It’s true…the firefighter and police want the right to speak with the board directly in order to voice concerns. Currently they can only talk to the county manager, who is not an elected official.


  • Shady Non-Arlington Resident Signature Collector

    In a weird way, I almost hope these people get what they want. I’m always in favor of people having to suffer the repercussions of their own idiocy. Unfortunately, I also want to keep living in Arlington, and want it to continue to be a nice place to live. So, guess I’ll have to keep hoping their shifting, dishonest, out of County signature collectors didn’t get enough signatures.


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