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Early voting picks up with November election less than two weeks away

Voting in Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Early voting is picking up speed in Arlington while Arlington County Board candidates focus on Missing Middle and taxes.

The general election on Nov. 7 is less than two weeks away and at this point, far more people are voting early in person this year compared to 2019, the last election year without gubernatorial or presidential races.

More than 4,700 mailed ballots have been returned, leaving around 9,000 still outstanding, while some 3,000 people have already hit the polls, per Arlington’s voter turnout dashboard. Early in-person voting appears to have picked up this week with the election drawing nearer and after polling places opened Tuesday at Madison and Walter Reed community centers.

Early in-person voting in Arlington in 2019 and 2023 (via Arlington County)

As Election Day looms nearer, Arlington County Board candidates have focused on few key local issues and the importance of voting, generally.

Republican Juan Carlos Fierro weighed in after a judge ruled residents have standing to sue the county for its Missing Middle ordinances.

“One of the reasons I entered this campaign for the County Board is because of my concern that the existing County Board was ramrodding Missing Middle without considering the views of most citizens, and for not conducting adequate development impact analysis,” Fierro said in a statement.

If elected, he said he will question all projects that increase density without considering negative impacts and respect that homeowners “do have in fact ‘standing’ to challenge the County’s development policies.”

Not enough study of potential impacts is one of the charges the residents who sued levied against the county. Arlington County did hear from many residents about a myriad concerns while deliberating the zoning changes and, after a three-phase study that included a financial analysis, the county determined impacts would be “manageable because the pace of change will be gradual and incremental.”

“While the Judge’s ruling is a positive step to either repeal or modify Missing Middle, it underscores the fact that the County’s public engagement process is not very democratic,” he continued. “The Judge admonished the County Attorney for stating that the lawsuit was a ‘subversion of our democratic process.’ The County Attorney’s comment illustrates the lack of understanding by the County on what is true public engagement.”

Repeat independent candidate Audrey Clement, meanwhile, is focused on lowering taxes and convincing residents not to vote for a straight Democratic ticket.

In a recent email newsletter, she noted Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey discussed a possible tax increase next year during this month’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.

“ACDC is confident that it can quell any taxpayer revolt by simply passing out the Democratic Party Blue Ballot at the polls on Election Day,” Clement said. “When voters refuse to hold their elected officials accountable at the ballot box by blindly voting the Blue Ballot, excessive taxation is the result.”

She urged readers to “turn this situation around” by voting for fiscal conservatives such as herself and Fierro. Together, she says, they will also revisit Missing Middle ordinances, emphasize basic services and reduce the office vacancy rate.

The two appear to have formed an informal alternative joint ticket to Democratic nominees Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham, to fill the seats vacated by now-former Board member Katie Cristol and being vacated by Dorsey.

The local Republican party reciprocated with a sample ballot where Fierro’s name is in bold and Clement’s name is visible, while the two Democratic candidates are blurred out.

Like Fierro, Democratic candidate Susan Cunningham is continuing the Missing Middle circuit, this time, lending her perspective to a recent panel by Agenda: Alexandria — the city’s version of the Arlington Committee of 100. She tells ARLnow that the city is looking to Arlington as it revisits its zoning codes.

“Agenda: Alexandria organizers were interested in my experience hearing directly from Arlingtonians during the campaign and operating affordable housing in Alexandria,” she said, noting her plans to address lessons learned in Arlington.

Cunningham says she has also been watching Alexandria’s “Zoning for Housing/Housing for All” effort unfold with interest.

“So far, I have been encouraged by Alexandria’s broader approach to community engagement around vision, tools, and tradeoffs to build a more complete common sense housing plan,” she said. “I am eager to learn from Alexandria’s approach to both policy and engagement.”

Fellow Democratic candidate Maureen Coffey was one of two Arlington candidates — House of Delegates District 2 candidate Adele McClure was the other — featured on an Instagram video with actress Kerry Washington about the importance of voting.

Washington quizzed Coffey and other women running for office on arcane Virginia laws to bring humor to the importance of elections. Coffey correctly answered that the state beverage of Virginia is milk and it is illegal to be tickled.

The actress praised Coffey for her answers, saying she is “ready to lead” and “brilliant.”

“Your vote matters so much, especially in these local and state elections,” Coffey said at the end of the reel. “Don’t sacrifice your one chance to be heard.”

Arlington County Board candidate Maureen Coffey and Kerry Washington discuss voting in a recent Instagram video (via Betches/Instagram)

Coffey told ARLnow that, for the video, Betches Media reached out to Virginia voters and political advocates.

“It was a really cool opportunity: Kerry Washington has been involved in Virginia’s elections in the past and she wanted to focus on bringing awareness to our upcoming elections and the importance of engaging in democracy,” she said.

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