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County to Test Ranked-Choice Voting in Mock Election Tomorrow

Voting on June 8, 2021 at the Walter Reed Community Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County will hold a mock election tomorrow (Tuesday) to test out ranked-choice voting.

Voting will be open to the public from 2-4 p.m at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd). Those interested can then attend a second session from 5 -7 p.m to witness the process by which the ballots are counted.

The county will use the mock election to get feedback from voters on ballot layout, voting instructions, and on “tabulation scenarios,” officials said.

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates by preference on their ballot. Advocates for the system say that it leads to elections that are less negative and reduces the chance of an extreme candidate being elected, compared to a traditional winner-takes-all format. Some communities have ditched the election format after adopting it, however.

Arlington County and other Virginia localities have state authorization from the General Assembly to try out ranked-choice voting, but so far the county has held back from adopting it. Regulations are still being finalized by the state and are unlikely to be ready in time for an election until 2022, the Sun Gazette reports.

At a County Board meeting on July 17, proponents for the election system expressed frustration about the lack of progress in the transition to ranked-choice voting. In response, Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol noted that the mechanics of ranked-choice voting were “complicated,” according to the Sun Gazette.

Earlier in the year, the Arlington County Civic Federation held Zoom meetings to discuss county voting reforms, chief among them ranked-choice voting.

Although not yet in use by the County Board, the Arlington County Democratic Committee does use ranked-choice voting to decide its nominations for government seats.

Last May, the ranked-choice system propelled Takis Karantonis to victory in the Democratic primary, even though his opponent Barbara Kanninen, who now chairs the School Board, collected the most first-preference votes. Karantonis went on to win the special election to fill Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat in a landslide over his Republican and independent opponents.

“The Arlington Democrats have been using Ranked Choice Voting for our internal endorsement and nomination processes for several years, seeing a strong value in identifying the candidate that draws the broadest support from Democratic voters,” said Maggie Davis, deputy chairperson of Arlington Dems, after the Democratic primary last year.

At a statewide level, Virginia’s Republican Party embraced ranked-choice voting this May, using the system to nominate Glenn Youngkin as their candidate for governor.

Hat tip to Dave Schutz

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