Early voting kicks off today (Friday) for the June 21 primary, with only one race on the ballot in Arlington.
Virasingh, a daughter of immigrants, was born and raised in Arlington and is active with the Arlington County Democratic Committee. She was previously part of Communities in Schools at Barcroft Elementary School. Her professional resume includes work for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, and tech company Palantir.
Virasingh’s website lists some campaign priorities as housing for all, equity in education, securing a living wage and Medicare for all.
Beyer has held onto the 8th District, which also includes Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, since he won a crowded primary for former Congressman Jim Moran’s seat in 2014 and the general election later that year.
Among issues Beyer lists on his campaign website are climate change, housing, immigration, gun violence prevention, the federal workforce and others.
The winner will face any non-Democratic candidates in November. A convention to decide the Republican Party’s nominee — open to all Republicans in the 8th District — is set to be held on May 21. There is a slate of Republicans looking to catch the wave that elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
How to vote early
Any voter can cast a ballot in the Democratic primary, regardless of party affiliation, because Virginia is an open primary state. Voters can also go to any early voting location.
Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Ste 311, will be open for early voting every weekday except for Memorial Day through June 18. Its hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Additional hours on Saturdays and in the evenings are scheduled as follows:
- Madison Community Center, 3829 N. Stafford Street. Saturday, June 11, and Saturday, June 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday, June 14, and Thursday, June 16, 2-7 p.m.
- Walter Reed Community Center, 2909 16th Street S. Saturday, June 11, and Saturday, June 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday, June 14, and Thursday, June 16, 2-7 p.m.
Early voting for the primary runs to June 18. The deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration is May 31.
Voters can also cast an absentee ballot by mail. Mailed ballots will start to be sent out starting tomorrow. Requests for mailed ballots can be made through June 10, according to the Arlington County elections website.
Arlington voters may notice a some changes on their voter cards this year.
Currently, precincts are named after various things — neighborhoods, streets, buildings, etc. In Waycroft-Woodlawn, it is named after the neighborhood — 024 Woodlawn. The polling place is at the Glebe School on Glebe Road. However, there’s another precinct named 030 Glebe a couple of miles away, with a polling place at Drew Elementary on 23rd Street S. in Green Valley.
The 54 voting precincts are currently numbered with a one or two-digit number — albeit starting with one or two zeros — which will change to a three-digit number beginning at 101. So Precinct 1, will now be 101 and Precinct 54 would be Precinct 154, etc.
“The State requires a 3-digit number,” notes a report to the County Board, adding: “Precincts have been named after neighborhoods, facilities, and streets where they are located. All have proved problematic.”
The solution proposed by county staff is to switch that first leading zero to a one, while also eliminating the confusing names.
The new name for Woodlawn will be simply “Precinct 124,” while the Glebe precinct will become “Precinct 130.”
“The Arlington County Electoral Board and General Registrar hope the renaming and renumbering of precincts will help create a more seamless voting experience for Arlington County residents,” said Tania Griffin, community and outreach coordinator for the county’s Office of Voter Registration & Elections.
The request has to go to the state attorney general for approval, which can take up to 60 days, but changes will be made in time for the June 21 primary election.
The County Board voted to request these changes at its meeting on Saturday.
There were also some run-of-the-mill location changes for polling centers, approved by the Board ahead of the upcoming election. Voters in the Lexington 31, Overlee Knolls 17 and Buckingham 45 precincts may want to note the new locations below.
- Precinct 117 (currently “Overlee Knolls”) will move from Resurrection Lutheran Church to Cardinal School, 1644 N. McKinley Road.
- Precinct 131 (currently “Lexington”) will move from Lee Community Center, which closed indefinitely, to Westover Library at 1644 N. McKinley Road.
- Precinct 145 (currently “Buckingham”) will move from Barrett Elementary to the Lubber Run Community Center at 300 N. Park Drive.
Redistricting, meanwhile, could bring other precinct changes to the general election in November. The Arlington View precinct along Columbia Pike was split between the 2nd and 3rd House of Delegates districts and each must be in a single district.
The elections office has proposed three options to remedy the problem: Redraw the boundaries of precincts 10, 15, and 38; request a waiver to have a split precinct; or create an entirely new precinct.
The changes will not affect the June primary.
“We continue to get feedback from the community and options will be presented to the County Board before the November election,” Griffin said.
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Last night’s election gave Arlington’s local Republican and Democratic parties both reason to celebrate, while at the state level, Democrats ceded ground to the GOP.
Meanwhile, Arlington’s Republican party says it is celebrating greater enthusiasm for the party locally than it has seen in years. At the state level, Republicans swept Richmond: Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin beat former governor Terry McAuliffe, while fellow Republicans Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares became the first Black woman and Latino respectively to win statewide office.
“Terry was a low-energy candidate,” Arlington GOP Communications Director Matt Hurtt said. “Glenn was a dynamic candidate who enthused Republicans and independents. You have to believe a candidate is going to win, and Republicans believed Glenn was going to win. Even in a place like Arlington, we had a 33% increase [in Republican votes].”
At the county level, 60% of voters secured the re-election of incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis to the Arlington County Board. Voters handily elected Arlington Democrats-endorsed Mary Kadera to the Arlington School Board, succeeding Monique O’Grady.
Arlington re-elected Virginia House of Delegates members Patrick Hope (D-47), Rip Sullivan (D-48), and Alfonso Lopez (D-49), while Democrat Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, currently the City of Alexandria’s vice mayor, was elected to represent the 45th District, which includes parts of Arlington.
“The tremendous outpouring of Democratic support in Arlington was inspiring and contributed to victories in several critical races,” Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo said in a statement. “At the end of the day, we fell short statewide, but we’re confident that the Democratic leaders elected today will continue the fight for a brighter future in Virginia for everyone.”
Karantonis, who has been through three county-wide elections in 20 months, says largely, the priorities of Arlingtonians — and his three vanquished independent candidates — remain the same: housing, healthcare, economic development, the environment, equity, schools and transportation.
“I do believe this election season has underscored the set of issues that have been present along the entire 20 months that I’ve been in political campaign mode,” he said. “It was just a re-emphasis on things that residents need, and I’ve been proposing approaches that could bring measurable improvement.”
Republicans ride education to victory
While Arlington had a solidly Democrat showing, Hurtt said enthusiasm for Republicans grew leading up to election night. He pointed to the nearly 6-percentage point shift to the right between Donald Trump, who netted 17% of Arlingtonians’ votes, to Youngkin, who received 22.8% of votes.
An Arlington GOP meeting in May had 80 people — the highest attendance in decades, we’re told — and the record was soon broken by an event two weeks ago that netted 200 people and the Tuesday night watch party that attracted 300.
And one new issue drove that support, Hurtt says: education.
“I think the frustration there among parents was palpable,” he said.
That frustration came from a number of new schools issues taken on by Republicans, who’ve traditionally rallied around school choice and homeschooling.
Among them: how systemic racism is taught in schools; policy decisions to eliminate or lower admissions standards for advanced programs in the name of education equity; and in places such as Arlington and Fairfax counties, frustrations over school closures and masking.
“Unequivocally, [Critical Race Theory] 101 is not being taught in Virginia schools. That said, the lens through which every subject is taught… has the lens of critical theory, a philosophy of questioning the institutions,” Hurtt said. “To say to a child that everything around them is stacked against them or stacked in their favor [based on their race] is a destructive way to teach someone who’s forming their belief system.”
On education equity issues, he pointed to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County changing its admissions standards.
At Parents for Youngkin rallies in NoVa, the changes in admission policy at Thomas Jefferson High were more on the minds of many parents than the changes in the list of novels or history texts in their kids' classes. https://t.co/BDjihuFsPw https://t.co/IRo7vOn5wu
— Marc Fisher (@mffisher) November 3, 2021
At the state level, the Virginia Department of Education also cited equity in its decision to eliminate accelerated math courses prior to 11th grade.
Dems wanted the “CRT backlash” to be about crazy people not wanting their kids to be taught that slavery happened. But the issue really bites if it looks like some bureaucrat is going to cancel their kid’s advanced program because it’s not diverse enough.
— David Weigel (@daveweigel) November 3, 2021
On these issues, Hurtt said, McAuliffe wasn’t strong.
“It was clear in the last 96 hours of the campaign that Terry had lost his footing,” Hurtt said. “He gave us the greatest gift by saying, ‘Parents shouldn’t have a say in kids’ education.’ Whether he meant to say it that way or not, that’s what parents went into the polls considering.”
(Updated at 1 a.m.) The eyes of the nation are on the statewide races in Virginia tonight — and, at least occasionally, on Arlington, which is remaining deep blue.
Another Election Day has resulted in another decisive sweep for Arlington Democrats in the local races.
The narrowest win, relatively speaking, belongs to County Board member Takis Karantonis, who currently has just over 60% of the vote with all but two of Arlington’s 57 precincts reporting. His three independent challengers — Mike Cantwell, Audrey Clement and Adam Theo — have about 14%, 18% and 6% of the vote, respectively.
Democratic-endorsed School Board candidate Mary Kadera is cruising to victory and will replace fellow Democrat Monique O’Grady, who did not seek another term. In the House of Delegates races for districts that include Arlington, Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Parker-Bennett will be headed to Richmond in January, while Dels. Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan were all reelected.
All four of the county’s 2021 bond referenda will pass, with the $17 million “community infrastructure” bond receiving 71% yes votes, the lowest of the four.
More than half of Arlington registered voters cast ballots — 26.5% did so through early voting — though whether the turnout exceeds the 59% seen in the 2017 gubernatorial race will not be official until all of the votes are counted. The Arlington elections office said that it would not be able to complete the count until later this week due to outstanding ballots.
Signing off for the night. All precincts, early voting, & mail ballots received through tonight are reported.
~481 mail ballots from precinct drop boxes & 578 provisional ballots remain outstanding & will be processed later this week.
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) November 3, 2021
As for the statewide races, 76.5% of Arlington voters voted for Democrat Terry McAuliffe to return for a non-consecutive term in the governor’s mansion, as of 11 p.m. That’s down from the 80% that Gov. Ralph Northam received in 2017, and it will likely not be enough. Republican Glenn Youngkin currently has about 51% of the vote across the Commonwealth, to 49% for McAuliffe.
CNN briefly highlighted the vote in Arlington as its national prime time coverage focuses on the closely-watched race in Virginia, a state that had been trending bluer during the Trump era.
Major national outlets called the race for Youngkin around 12:30 a.m., later also calling it for GOP colleagues, Lieutenant Governor candidate Winsome Sears and Attorney General candidate Jason Miyares.
Some 26% of registered voters in Arlington have shown up to the polls so far on Election Day as of 5 p.m., according to the county elections office.
Adding that to the 26.5% of Arlingtonians who voted early, that means turnout was nearly 53% with two hours until the polls close at 7 p.m.
Only 2 hours left to #vote. Polls close at 7pm. Voters in line at 7pm will be allowed to vote.
5pm turnout estimates are ~26% for polling places.
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) November 2, 2021
That is within shouting distance of 2017’s voter turnout — 59% — which was the highest in more than two decades for a non-presidential election.
Other nearby localities are also seeing high turnout. With still several hours left for voting, Fairfax County is reporting that nearly 50% of those registered have voted. 2017 saw a 56% turnout in that county. Alexandria has had slightly over 51% turnout as of 4 p.m.. In 2017, Alexandria’s turnout was nearly 58%.
The numbers that are currently being reported both locally and statewide have some predicting that this election is going to set a new bar for statewide turnout in a non-presidential election year.
Going to smash all turnout records today for a Governor’s race. I mean seriously smash- going past 3 million total.
— Ben Tribbett (@notlarrysabato) November 2, 2021
Early voting is playing a big role in the turnout numbers this election cycle as well. In Arlington, there were more than three times the number of early votes than compared to 2017.
The high early voting totals plus administrative changes in how those results will be publicly reported could skew the first release of results in surprising ways, tweeted the Virginia Public Access Project.
The only thing less predictable about the results of the @TerryMcAuliffe–@GlennYoungkin is HOW the results will come in tonight. Those who are expecting the traditional sequence of #Virginia results (red areas early; blue areas late) could be in for a big surprise. MORE->
— Virginia Public Access Project (@vpapupdates) November 2, 2021
(Updated, 4:10 p.m.) Today, Arlington residents are arriving at community centers, churches, libraries, schools, apartment complexes, and university lecture halls across the county to vote.
“Our voice matters,” one voter told ARLnow standing outside of her polling place at Drew Community Center. “It’s our duty. It’s important to have a voice for our kids, for our community, for our health.”
With the eyes of the nation on Virginia, ARLnow stopped by seven polling places, from Clarendon to Virginia Square to Green Valley. Lines at those polling places were either non-existent or very short.
One poll worker at Barrett Elementary near Ballston described it as a “steady stream” of voters so far.
The lack of lines perhaps has to do with high early voting turnout. Just over 41,000 votes were cast early, be it by in-person or mail-in voting, according to Arlington’s voting dashboard.
That’s approximately 26.5% of all registered voters in Arlington and more than three times the number of early voters in the last gubernatorial election in 2017.
Nonetheless, there are many locals who waited until today to cast their vote.
“Maybe I’m old, but I like that today is Election Day and that’s why I voted today,” a voter said in front of Clarendon United Methodist Church on N. Irving Street. “It feels patriotic.”
“I want to set a good example for our son,” said another voter outside the church, shifting her child from one arm to the other. “We want to make sure he understands that voting is the most basic form of contributing to where you live and your community.”
As of 9 a.m., election day turnout was about 7%, according to a tweet from Arlington County elections office. Another update is expected to come later this afternoon.
It's time for a 9am turnout update. Polling places are showing ~7% turnout. This does NOT include early and mail ballots. This is just election day turnout.
— Arlington Elections (@ArlingtonVotes) November 2, 2021
Adding that to the early voting totals, that means more than a third of registered voters in Arlington have already voted.
Eric Olsen, Arlington’s deputy director of elections, said turnout is likely higher than that since a number of absentee ballots haven’t been counted yet.
In terms of how that compares to the final voter turnout in 2017, which was 59% in Arlington — the highest in two decades for a non-presidential election — Olsen says it’s hard to say.
“Voting patterns have changed with more people early-voting and mailing-in, those are the voters who are more likely to vote anyway,” he says. “So, it’s really difficult to say [how it compares to 2017].”
He also notes that early morning was a bit slow, with polls opening at 6 a.m., but reports from pollings places suggest it has accelerated during the mid-morning.
There have been a few minor hiccups at several of Arlington’s 54 pollings places, says Olsen, but nothing that they haven’t dealt with on prior election days. A few poll workers didn’t show, a few machines went down, and workers couldn’t get inside one polling place until right up until 6 a.m., he said.
“All common stuff,” says Olsen. “It’s all been rectified and running pretty smoothly.”
The closely-watched Virginia gubernatorial race has drawn the national media to Arlington today. CNN was broadcasting live this morning from outside of Arlington Central Library in Virginia Square.
Voters head to the polls today to decide on races that could hold clues for 2022. In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe faces off against Republican Glenn Youngkin for governor. CNN's @SunlenSerfaty has more from Arlington, Virginia. pic.twitter.com/y5WYrZnKti
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) November 2, 2021
Voting Getting Underway — It’s Election Day. Polling places in Arlington are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. today. The statewide race for governor is dominating headlines, but here in Arlington there are local races for County Board, School Board and Virginia House of Delegates, plus bond referenda.
Three-Day Week for Students — “It’ll be a three-day work week, so to speak, for Arlington students this week. Classrooms will be closed on Nov. 2 for Election Day, and on Nov. 4, the school system will for the first time celebrate Diwali – a Hindu festival of lights – by taking the day off.” [Sun Gazette]
More on School Bus Driver Protests — Bus drivers for Arlington Public Schools earn the lowest hourly rate among various D.C. area school systems, as compiled by a local TV station. Drivers protested their treatment just over a week ago. [WUSA 9]
Pedestrian Tunnel Closing for Repairs — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “The pedestrian tunnel between Courthouse Metro station and Colonial Place will be closed for repairs this Wednesday through Friday. Aboveground crosswalks will remain open and the views of CVS are exquisite.” [Twitter]
Ticket Sales Restricted for Football Game — “This coming Saturday, November 6th at 3:30PM, W-L Varsity Football team, Cheerleaders and Marching Band will travel to Yorktown to play our last regular season football game. Please note that attendance at this game will be restricted. Free passes will not be accepted. There will be no tickets sold at the gate. Due to restrictions put in place by Yorktown to address capacity and supervision concerns (including students rushing the field), W-L has been allocated 600 spectator tickets.” [Generals Athletics, Twitter]
ACPD Toy Drive Returns Next Week — “Help spread joy this holiday season by donating new, unwrapped toys during the Arlington County Police Department’s (ACPD) seventh annual Fill the Cruiser Holiday Toy Drive. This year, with families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for donations may be greater than ever and your generosity helps ensure the holidays are bright for some of our most vulnerable community members – children in need.” [ACPD]
It’s Tuesday — Today showers are likely, mainly between 11am and 2pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Sunrise at 7:36 a.m. and sunset at 6:06 p.m. Tomorrow it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 53.
In the first gubernatorial race since Virginia implemented an array of voting reforms, one thing remains the same: early voter turnout in Arlington continues to surpass regional and state levels.
It’s a trend that Arlington’s general registrar and election director Gretchen Reinemeyer says she has seen since she started working with the county in 2008 as a seasonal employee with the Voting and Elections Office.
As of yesterday (Wednesday), over 27,000 early ballots in Arlington County were cast, consisting of nearly 10,000 mail-in ballots and over 17,000 in-person votes.
Thus far, Arlington’s early voting rate is nearly 18%, higher than Northern Virginia’s rate of roughly 16% rate and the Commonwealth’s 14.4% turnout, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project
Arlington held its first Sunday voting ever on Oct. 24, with 1,454 voters casting ballots in four hours, according to the county. As of July 1, the state permitted the general registrars or electoral boards of jurisdictions to decide if they want to provide voting on Sundays.
“I thought [it] was a very successful inaugural Sunday voting event,” said Matt Weinstein, chair of the county’s three-member Electoral Board, adding that he’d like to see the county do it again.
Arlington’s elevated early voter turnout rate may not be a new phenomenon, but there are a few new changes Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law last year to improve voter participation.
One law dropped the requirement of voters providing an approved reason for absentee voting as of last year’s presidential election. Another law automatically registers people to vote (unless they decline) when they get a driver’s license or make other changes with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
While early voting may increase access to the polls, it does make the job of election outcome predicting more difficult, according to former Arlington County Treasurer and local amateur election prognosticator Frank O’Leary.
“In the past, it was possible to estimate absentee turnout, as Election Day approached, and from that statistic estimate total turnout,” he said. “Unfortunately, ‘absentee voting’ (which was relatively restrictive) has been supplanted by early voting… Thus, all my prior statistics of absentee voting are rendered null and void, which reduces me to ‘guesstimating’ Arlington’s turnout and by inference that of all Virginia.”
This year, he estimates a voter turnout of 56.7% or about 87,000 people for Arlington County, compared to the county’s turnout for the last gubernatorial race in 2017 of 59.4% or 85,382 votes.
Elections in Arlington County could change dramatically in the coming years.
First, County Board members are considering whether to do away with first-past-the-post voting for their seats and replace it with ranked-choice voting (RCV). And second, a 16-person bipartisan commission is redrawing boundaries for Virginia’s congressional, state Senate and House of Delegates districts, replacing the former redistricting process led by the state legislature.
As early as a 2022 primary, Arlingtonians could rank their picks for a County Board seat. They are also likely to see one fewer delegate and state senator representing the county.
During a Tuesday County Board meeting, county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer fielded questions from members about implementing, calculating and educating the public about ranked-choice voting and previewed how the 2020 U.S. Census could impact Arlington’s electoral districts.
A few Board members expressed their support for the system, also known as “instant runoff,” which selects a winner over the course of many elimination rounds.
“I think it does lead to much healthier campaigns and conversations,” Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol said. “If your second choice is on the Board, making choices on your behalf, even if your first choice isn’t, I think that increases your tie to, and hopefully faith in, government,” she said.
Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the system could fix issues in Arlington’s electoral process, but he requested more expert input before making a decision.
“Many in our community have said, ‘We don’t just want one party,'” he said. “For me, it would help [to understand] the math and then [lift] up the values that we want in our elections.”
Arlington’s ‘test run’
The County Board is expected to decide if RCV it applies to elections for their own seats, and whether it would be used in primaries, the general election, or both.
In 2020, the General Assembly gave municipalities the go-ahead to use ranked-choice voting locally, effective July 1, 2022. At the request of Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), it granted Arlington the ability to test out the system one year in advance.
So far, the county hasn’t taken advantage of this extra time, drawing criticism from this year’s independent candidates for County Board. They say the reform — although it wouldn’t apply this November — would add political diversity to the Board.
“That’s the plot by which some people in our community believe [we] have failed to act,” Board Member Christian Dorsey said.
Reinemeyer said due to an overlooked provision in electoral codes, Arlington couldn’t do anything until the state Board of Elections drafted ballot standards and tabulating rules.
School Board races are exempt both from Hope’s Arlington-specific law and the statewide one. Hope says he couldn’t find support for RCV among School Board members at the time. Still, Hope said he and Del. Sally Hudson (D-57), a sponsor of the statewide bill, are open to including School Boards if ranked-choice voting proves popular.
“I’d be open to bringing a bill in 2022 to expand ranked choice voting that would just apply to the Arlington School Board,” he said. “It could serve as a model for the rest of the Commonwealth.”
Ranked-choice voting is supported by all four candidates for County Board, according to their comments at an Arlington Committee of 100 candidate forum held last night (Wednesday).
The event was the first candidate forum of the fall general election season.
Support is strong among the three independent candidates — Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and Adam Theo — who want to unseat Democrat incumbent Takis Karantonis. He won a special election in 2020 and his seat is now up for a full four-year term. Theo, a Libertarian, is the most recent addition to the ballot after officially launching his campaign this week.
While all four support ranked choice voting, the reform would not be ready for the upcoming Nov. 2 election, as the county is still hammering out the logistics of the system. Dismayed at the pace of implementation, the independents said the reform would reveal public support for candidates like them and add political diversity to the County Board.
“I’ve spent a lot of my free time promoting ranked choice voting in Virginia,” said Cantwell, who became the vice president of Fair Vote Virginia, which advocates for ranked choice voting in Virginia, in 2019. “I went to Richmond in February 2020 and lobbied to bring it to Virginia. At that time, to the surprise of many, the legislature passed bills 506 and 1103, which allowed it in [Arlington] and the rest of Virginia. Since that time, [the county has] taken very little action to implement that new law.”
Theo also criticized the lack of movement on implementing the new voting system and educating voters about it.
“It would’ve been awesome to have the logo-picking determined by ranked choice voting,” he said. “That would’ve been a great way to educate the public. Here we are, waiting for the county to proceed and provide results. I have a lot of skepticism for the County Board’s real willingness to push forward real reform. It puts their own positions, jobs, in jeopardy.”
Karantonis said he is on the record supporting ranked-choice voting and voted to fund an initiative to test it out.
“I put money where my mouth is,” he said. “I think this is a great improvement in democracy.”
During the forum the four candidates articulated their positions housing and on Arlington County’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Both Karantonis and Theo said “affordable housing” is the biggest issue facing Arlington.
“I’ve been a housing advocate from day one,” Karantonis said. “The first thing my wife and I experienced [when moving here] was not being able to find housing, not having choices… Arlington is a community that looks back to a solid record of planning carefully for housing, of matching development with assets like transportation, schools and natural resources. We need to bundle these to support the creation of new housing choices because displacement is a real thing.”
“[Housing affordability] poses the problem of pricing out the elderly, low-income, immigrant and disabled people who are clinging on as it is already,” he said. “The number of housing units built in this county is horrifyingly low.”
But he took a jab at the County Board for talking about affordable housing and posing for photos at new developments, while not doing more to prioritize affordability. He spoke favorably of the Missing Middle Housing Study, a county-led effort to see if single-family home areas should be rezoned for more types of moderate-density homes, as a means to increase housing options for the middle-class.
Cantwell said he worries about affordability both in terms of housing and taxes.
“I think the biggest problem facing Arlington is runaway spending and taxes and lack of accountability in county government, [which] stems from lack of political competition,” Cantwell said. “I’m for affordable housing, but I question the outcomes of $300 million spent on a government-run affordable housing program… I think most Arlingtonians are interested in finding a market rate affordable housing place to live in, but not that many are interested in being part of government run program, where they have to submit tax returns, W-2s [and other] bureaucracy.”
Clement said the Missing Middle Study will create more housing, but nothing truly affordable, predicting people will continue to get priced out of their neighborhoods. She added that it won’t promote racial equity, citing a study from New York University that found between 2000-2007, upzoning in New York City “produced an influx of whites in gentrified areas, even as white population plummeted.”
“A far better solution is to repurpose unrented luxury units in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to moderate income housing,” she said.
(Another NYU study found little link between neighborhood gentrification and displacement of low-income residents, at least in New York City.)
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