“Slow and steady.” That’s how the voting in today’s Arlington County Board Democratic primary is being described.
As of noon today, precincts around Arlington had recorded only about a 5 percent turnout. Election officials are expecting an approximately 10 percent overall turnout by the time the polls close at 7 p.m., compared to a 8 percent turnout in last year’s local primary.
By contrast, a whopping 46 percent of Arlington’s registered voters cast ballots in the March 1 presidential primary — 29 percent for Democrats, 17 percent for Republicans.
Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg said things have been “pretty smooth” so far today. The biggest problem has been people showing up and asking why the presidential candidates aren’t on the ballot, she said.
Most voters who talked to ARLnow.com said they voted out of a moral obligation, stating that it was their civic duty to get out and vote.
“It’s a civil duty but its almost an obligation and everyone who can vote should vote,” said one voter at a polling station near Clarendon.
Of the voters willing to reveal who they voted for, the majority said they voted for incumbent Libby Garvey, citing as their main motivation her willingness to do things outside of the expected “establishment” Democratic norms.
“I voted for Libby Garvey because I don’t like the idea of ultra orthodox anything, politics or any other realm,” said a voter. “I don’t like the idea that somebody has to adhere to a certain line when they’re presented something.”
Another voter felt that having an independent voice was important.
“One of the reasons that I voted for Libby Garvey is because her own Democratic colleagues… have turned against her because they wanted a unified bloc of voting,” he said. “Since when has unanimity been the goal? You want some sort of discussion and dissent. I think many Democrats were disappointed that the Board does not allow dissent. It’s almost dictatorial in its approach. She didn’t think she had to vote with the entire group of Democrats just because she’s a Democrat and that upset a lot of people.”
One voter interviewed decided to vote for challenger Erik Gutshall, citing his experience and the desire to have a fresh perspective on the County Board.
“I ended up voting for Erik Gutshall. I read all of the propaganda from both of them that came in the mail and he’s been doing a bunch of stuff,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about him before a week and a half ago but he seems to be very active on the Lyon Park [civic] association, Planning Commission and all that and I think it would be interesting to give him a shot at it. I had saved all the things I received in the mail including six from Libby Garvey and they all had the same exact four points with one sentence on each. Not much substance.”
Most of the voters were older, although there were some younger people seen at the polls. When asked about the lack of younger voters, one voter shared his opinion on the matter.
“Older people are probably more invested in voting than most young people who are blissfully unaware,” he said.
When asked about the relatively low turnout, voters and staffers gave a number of reasons including the fact that it was a summertime election, the prevalence of absentee ballots and the more local nature of the election. One man using an ATM outside of a polling location was not even aware that there was an election going on at the moment.
Additional reporting by Adrian Cruz. Photos by Omar DeBrew.