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Election Day 2022 in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In the primary election next June, registered voters will be able to rank their preferred candidates for a seat on the Arlington County Board.

The change comes after the Arlington County Board unanimously endorsed testing out ranked-choice voting for County Board elections on Saturday.

“This reform alone will not be sufficient to overcome… the forces trying to undermine our democratic traditions,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “Nevertheless, I think this is worth trying. I hope that we can not only excite Arlington voters about the potential, give them an opportunity to express the full range of their preferences, but also provide a model to other communities.”

The Board’s decision makes Arlington the first locality in Virginia to move forward on adopting ranked-choice voting.

UpVote Virginia, a newly formed nonpartisan organization that supports changes like ranked-choice voting, celebrated the move.

“It’s not everyday in Virginia you can say you were the first to do something, but this resolution truly does signify a historic opportunity,” UpVote Virginia Executive Director Liz White said. “Looking forward, we hope your example today will set the stage for other localities across the Commonwealth.”

The change, which would only apply to primaries run by the county’s Office of Elections, comes months ahead of the primary. Legally, the Board has until March 22, 2023 to enact RCV for the June 20 primary.

Local political parties will declare whether they will pick their nominee via a primary run by Arlington’s election office or a party-run convention.

According to White, the method has bipartisan support.

“Even longtime political rivals have found common ground in support of ranked-choice voting,” she told the Board on Saturday. “At UpVote Virginia’s launch event in August, we heard remarks in favor of RCV from your very own Democratic Congressman Don Beyer and former Gov. George Allen, a Republican. It’s not often you get those two speaking at the same event, but that really encapsulates how broad RCV’s appeal can be.”

And in Arlington, a recently closed survey that netted 786 responses found that the majority of respondents support the change.

Support for ranked-choice voting drawn from a survey of Arlingtonians (via Arlington County)

Per the survey, support fluctuated some based on zip code. Support was weakest in the 22207 zip code — residential northern Arlington, which trends a bit more conservative than the rest of deep blue Arlington — where 63% of 152 residents support it. That compared with 75% of 177 residents in the 22201 zip code, which includes part of the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor.

Other zip codes with smaller response rates had higher favorability rates.

Support for ranked-choice voting by zip code in Arlington (via Arlington County)

The potential change comes on the heels of other voting reforms enacted by the state, including expanded access to absentee ballots, new automatic and same-day voter registration and new legislative maps.

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(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) What many believed would be the most competitive Arlington County Board race in four years has turned out to be another convincing Democratic victory.

The three-way race between incumbent Democrat Matt de Ferranti and independents Audrey Clement and Adam Theo is, at least to some degree, a referendum on Missing Middle housing.

Clement strongly opposes the proposal to allow smaller-scale multifamily housing in neighborhoods currently zoned only for single-family homes, while Theo supports it. De Ferranti, meanwhile, staked out a middle ground, expressing opposition to the higher 8-unit end of the potential range of allowed housing types.

With 55 out of 57 precincts reporting, de Ferranti has 60% of the vote to 28% for Clement and 10% for Theo.

Both Clement and Theo ran for County Board last year, before Missing Middle came to the fore as a hot-button local issue. In the 2021 race, Democrat Takis Karantonis carried about 60% of the vote to 18% for Clement, 6% for Theo and 14% for Mike Cantwell, another independent candidate..

The Missing Middle proposal has attracted the ire of many homeowners, while a coalition of groups — from affordable housing boosters to the local chapter of the NAACP — support it.

An early look at precinct-by-precinct results shows support for Clement in Arlington’s northern, single-family home neighborhoods. The Madison district in far northern Arlington, for instance, has voted 58% for Clement to 36% for de Ferranti and 4% for Theo. She also claimed the Thrifton (Woodmont), Rock Spring, and Yorktown districts — all also in far northern Arlington.

That compares to the more renter-heavy Met Park district, in the Pentagon City neighborhood, which voted 64% for de Ferranti and 20% for Clement and 15% for Theo.  A more “in between” district — Fairlington, with its mix of townhouses and smaller condo buildings — voted 66% for de Ferranti, 23% for Clement and 9% for Theo.

Also on the ballot today were School Board and congressional races, which were even more lopsided for the Democratic candidates.

For the open Arlington School Board seat vacated by Barbara Kanninen, Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed candidate Bethany Sutton has 68% of the vote to 30% for independent James ‘Vell’ Rives IV.

Meanwhile, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer has 77% of the vote in the Virginia 8th District congressional race, to 21% for Republican Karina Lipsman and 1.5% for independent Teddy Fikre.

Arlington Democrats claimed victory on Twitter just after 9 p.m.

De Ferranti tells ARLnow he was impressed by the 85,000 people who voted this election, in which there was no senatorial, gubernatorial or presidential race.

“In Virginia, that doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “There are other elections where there is an even lower turnout. This is a pretty rare election, and to have 85,000 vote in this election is a pretty solid turnout.”

He said addressing climate change, investing in schools and tackling affordable housing and housing affordability — “related but distinct” issues — will be key priorities this term.

“I’m grateful to Arlington residents for the chance to serve them,” he said. “I love doing this job and I’m humbled, grateful, and looking forward to serving over the next four years. I’m going to try and live up to Arlingtonians: that means being smart, thoughtful and compassionate, caring about our community and being forward-looking.”

Clement told ARLnow she was dismayed with the results, though she won four out of 54 districts — including Madison, with her 22-point margin — and came within just over 1% of the vote in another.

“I didn’t perform as well as I thought I would,” she said. “I thought I would push 40% — the sentiment I got on the street indicated a better showing.”

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Election Day is here, and thousands of residents are hitting the polls — manned by 426 volunteers — to cast their ballots in the 2022 mid-term election.

By 9 a.m., about 10% of Arlington voted in-person, according to the county elections office, in addition to the 13% of people who voted early and in-person and 7% who voted by mail.

“The polls have been steady so far this morning,” said Tania Griffin, spokeswoman for the Arlington Office of Voter Registration and Elections.

Turnout in a midterm is typically about half the turnout of a presidential election, Arlington Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer previously told ARLnow.

Just over 20,000 people voted early in this year’s general election, Griffin said. Combined with the more than 11,000 absentee ballots sent in, Virginia Public Access Project says Arlington’s early voting rate surpasses those for Northern Virginia and the state. (Nearly 5,000 have not returned the mail ballots they requested.)

Early voting rates in Arlington, the region and the state (via Virginia Public Access Project)

In 2018, the last midterm election, 21,147 ballots were cast early, per VPAP.

While early voting got off to a muted start to in September, and was “slightly slower” than last year’s election, local and statewide Democrats celebrated early voting numbers yesterday during a rally at the home of Matt de Ferranti, the Democrat Arlington County Board incumbent running for re-election.

“The trends are positive, particularly in the three parts of the state that have really competitive congressional districts. We see high numbers, and we really see good Democratic advantage in the early vote,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who came out for the rally. “We really like what we’re seeing.”

In the local U.S. House race, Arlington voters can choose among Democrat incumbent Rep. Don Beyer and his two challengers for the 8th District, Republican Karina Lipsman and independent Teddy Fikre.

Kaine said one top driver for races this year is the economy, which he characterized as a mixed bag.

“You have inflation but you have historic job growth. Inflation might make you worry if there’s a downturn coming, but then you see how strong job growth is — during Biden’s term, 10 million-plus jobs, manufacturing coming back, big job announcements with Amazon,” he said. “I think the evidence will be mixed.”

Among the countywide races, voters can choose between two School Board candidates — independent, Sun Gazette-endorsed James “Vell” Rives IV and Arlington County Democratic Committee-endorsed Bethany Sutton.

In Arlington, the most watched race this year is likely that for County Board, which has become a showdown on the topic of Missing Middle housing — the proposal to open up single-family zoning to smaller-scale multifamily housing.

De Ferranti said that could have driven the relatively higher early voting showing.

“The early vote we’re seeing is so stepped up that we’ll have to see what the total turnout is,” de Ferranti said. “This is greater turnout than 2018 so far, and I think some of that is the discussion we’re having on housing.”

His challengers for County Board — frequent independent candidate Audrey Clement and second-time candidate Adam Theo — say Missing Middle is a litmus test this election.

“After squeezing in last minute doorknocking yesterday, and all the responses I’m receiving this morning at precincts, I’m feeling very optimistic for the campaign and the success of the Missing Middle housing proposal,” Theo told ARLnow.

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The Water Pollution Control Plant in South Arlington (via DES/Flickr)

Your poop could give Arlington County natural gas to power buildings or buses.

The county is developing plans to upgrade its Water Pollution Control Plant, where local sewage goes. One change involves installing technology that can harness the methane emitted when human solid waste is processed, turning it into renewable natural gas, a process some municipalities have already implemented.

The energy could be used to power the wastewater plant, homes and commercial buildings or become an alternate fuel for ART buses. The “sludge” created through this process can also be used as a fertilizer for gardens, forests, farms and lawns. (If you’ve ever used Milorganite brand fertilizer, you’ve used dried sewage sludge from Milwaukee.)

How sewage can become power (via Arlington County)

Improvements to the wastewater treatment facility, to the tune of $156 million, are part of a $177 million bond request for utilities upgrades, which also includes improvements the regional Washington Aqueduct system ($15 million) and new gravity transmission mains ($3 million).

Funding for this work would come from a half-billion dollar bond referenda that voters will be considering on Election Day tomorrow (Tuesday). Over $510 million will go toward this work as well as a host of initiatives, upgrades and maintenance projects that Arlington County adopted as part of its 2023-32 Capital Improvement Plan.

Some big-ticket items have already grabbed headlines, like the $136 million requested to build a new Arlington Career Center campus and $2 million to design a proposed Arlington Boathouse on the Potomac River near Rosslyn. But there are dozens of other upgrades proposed for facilities that Arlingtonians of all ages use on a regular, and sometimes daily, basis.

Renovations to existing county buildings and the construction of new ones surpass $53 million.

Highlights include:

  • $13.1 million for various renovations to Arlington’s police headquarters and, for the county’s courts building, technology upgrades, new finishes, a redesigned entrance and a relocated Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts division.
  • $12 million to fund the construction and renovation of some floors of 2020 14th Street N. to make room for ACFD Fire Marshal and Battalion Chiefs offices and other public safety staff and functions. It will also see the replacement of the building’s 60-year-old HVAC system.
  • $7.5 million to acquire land next to the Serrano Apartments to build a fire station there and improve response times on the west end of Columbia Pike, given the pace of development along the Pike.

Overall, Arlington Public Schools is asking for $165 million. Of that, some $12.24 million would pay for safer school entrances, a measure many school systems nationwide are implementing in the wake of high-profile shootings, and new kitchens to allow more meals to be made in-house.

“Upgraded kitchens will allow students to eat high-quality meals that include more fresh fruits and vegetables that are prepared on-site,” according to APS. “The entrance and security vestibule updates will comply with current safety and security standards while ensuring all visitors check in at the main office.”

Existing and modernized school kitchens (via APS)

Another $16.8 million would pay for a new roof for Escuela Key, the Spanish-language immersion elementary school, HVAC replacement at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School and lighting upgrades across schools.

The Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation is asking for nearly $22.5 million for a dozen projects.

That includes some funding $1.5 million to replace and renovate some stretches of the county’s nearly 40 miles of off-street, multi-purpose trails, 56 pedestrian bridges and 11 low-water fords.

Preschool- and school-aged kids could have new playgrounds at Bailey’s Branch, Monroe and Woodmont parks sometime in 2024 ($2.8 million). Douglas Park will see $2 million in improvements, including a new picnic shelter, pedestrian bridge, stormwater management, invasive species removal and reforestation.

Athletes who play at Kenmore Middle School could have new turf fields ($300,000).

There’s $1.1 million in funding to design new facilities at Short Bridge Park, near the border of the City of Alexandria, as well as $1.8 million to redesign Gateway Park in Rosslyn, which the budget says is “difficult and dangerous to access due to the surrounding high-speed roadways” and is “under-utilized.”

People who live in the Ballston and Virginia Square areas would be able to get in on the ground floor of master planning processes ($1.5 million) next year to upgrade Maury, Herselle Milliken and Gum Ball parks starting as early as 2025.

The second, $4.4 million phase of work on Jennie Dean Park will move forward, including demolishing the existing WETA building, two parking lots and a portion of 27th Street S., installing a lighted basketball court and converting the existing court for tennis use.

The growing pickleball population, sometimes at odds with neighbors, and the dirt trail-less mountain bike enthusiasts could get new facilities through $2 million to convert tennis courts at Walter Reed Community Center for pickleball use, draw pickleball lines on some multi-use courts and fund “design improvements to natural surface trails and mountain biking improvements.”

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Candidates for Virginia’s 8th Congressional District during a public forum in September (via Arlington County Civic Federation/Facebook)

It’s not easy to beat a Democratic incumbent or endorsee in deep blue Arlington, but independent and GOP candidates in local races are trying to find ways to do just that in the days approaching next week’s general election.

Rep. Don Beyer, who is running to be re-elected to Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, is trading political punches with his challenger Karina Lipsman over news of an investigation into one his staff members.

Barbara Hamlett, a scheduler for Beyer, allegedly reached out to other congressional aides to set up meetings with Chinese embassy members to discuss policy, National Review reported.

“From the moment he learned of these inappropriate activities, Rep. Beyer closely followed directions of security officials, and the staffer is no longer employed by his office,” Beyer spokesman Aaron Fritschner told ARLnow in a statement. “He has been and remains a prominent critic of China’s record on human rights, its threatening behavior towards Taiwan, and its totalitarian repression of its citizens.”

Hamlett “did not have any national security or foreign policy role or influence,” and “inappropriately tried to connect staff in Republican offices with Chinese Embassy staff without Rep. Beyer’s knowledge or consent,” Fritschner said.

ARLnow asked what additional steps Beyer’s office has considered taking to prevent this from happening again. Fritschner said all he can say is that “we are working with security officials to address the issue.”

Lipsman has called for Beyer’s removal from Congressional committees and for a Congressional investigation. Beyer sits on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Joint Economic Committee.

“I have been part of investigations on sensitive national security subjects before, and it’s very clear to me that, based on what we know, this matter must be thoroughly investigated by Congress,” she said. “The extent of Beyer’s office’s ties to the Chinese government needs to be determined, so the level of national security risk can be determined. His office has clearly been compromised. Again, I’ve held top-level security clearances for years and this situation is well within my experience. It needs to be treated extremely seriously.”

Lipsman said she has served for 14 years in the U.S. defense and intelligence communities and has had security clearances “exceeding Top Secret.”

Fritschner said Lipsman’s “baseless, Trumpian insinuations are reminiscent of her previous declaration that ‘Fauci should be jailed.'”

“Lipsman’s unserious demands are a ploy for attention and money, not a genuine concern about national security, which is why she is fundraising off them,” he said. “In reality, when she was busy scrubbing mentions of her opposition to abortion rights from her website in August, Congressman Beyer was in Taiwan standing with our allies in defense of freedom. Lipsman would rather make political hay out of this than talk about her backing for House Republican leadership which wants to wreck the economy, make inflation worse, cut Social Security and Medicare, and cut off support for Ukraine. We are confident that Northern Virginians will see through her.”

The back-and-forth comes a week before the election. This year, registered voters in Arlington can cast their ballots for the Arlington County Board, School Board and Virginia’s 8th Congressional district, as well as six local bond referenda totaling $510 million. For those who are still on the fence, ARLnow will publish, as we do every local election cycle, candidate essays on Friday.

Early voting numbers are down compared with 2021. As of the end of the day yesterday (Monday), about 11,600 people had voted, Arlington Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer said. That tracks with the muted start to early voting in September.

“On average, we’ve been slightly slower than last year’s election,” she said.

A week prior to the election last year, about 15,400 people had voted.

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Early voting at Arlington County government headquarters on Sept. 23, 2022 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Early voting got off to a muted start today (Thursday) at the Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse.

“We had a line of five voters when we opened at 8 a.m.,” Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer told ARLnow. “We’ve had 72 voters as of 11 a.m. Flow is slow but steady. The first day of voting last year we processed around 400 voters. We might be slightly under that today.”

Through Nov. 4, registered voters in Arlington can cast their ballots at the county’s election offices for Arlington County Board, School Board and Virginia’s 8th Congressional district, as well as six local bond referenda totaling $510 million.

One seat on the Arlington County Board is up for grabs, with incumbent Matt de Ferranti (D) and independents Adam Theo and Audrey Clement vying for the spot.

One seat on the Arlington School Board is open once member Barbara Kanninen steps down. Bethany Sutton, who has the endorsement of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and Vell Rives, her independent challenger, are competing for the position.

Arlington’s representative to U.S. Congress, Rep. Don Beyer, is running again for re-election. His challengers are Republican Karina Lipsman and independent Teddy Fikre.

The bonds, if approved, would fund some of the next 10 years’ worth of capital projects for the county and Arlington Public Schools. If needed, the Arlington County Board can reallocate approved bond funds to other projects within the same bucket, such as transportation or parks.

Though interest rates have been rising, the county says it typically gets lower rates, relatively speaking, thanks to its high credit rating.

“Arlington currently holds AAA general obligation bond ratings from the three major bond rating agencies,” the county website says. “These strong ratings allow the County to borrow at very low interest rates, resulting in lower costs to Arlington taxpayers.”

The planned bonds are as follows.

Metro & Transportation ($52.63 million)

  • Paying Arlington County’s share of Metro’s capital improvement program: $42.6 million
  • Paving local streets and roads, $7.2 million
  • Conducting maintenance on local vehicle and pedestrian bridges, $1.5 million
  • Improving street lighting, $1.1 million
  • Replacing intelligent transportation system devices, $200,000
  • Addressing missing links in curbs and gutters, $100,000

Parks and Recreation ($22.46 million) 

  • Parks maintenance capital and master planning projects, $10.8 million
  • Additional funding for the completed renovations at Jennie Dean Park, $4.4 million
  • Initial planning and designs for the Arlington Boathouse, $2.9 million
  • Arlington’s Natural Resiliency program, which conserves natural resources makes upgrades at parks to prevent destructive flooding, $2 million
  • Funding for the Emerging Uses program, which responds to “emerging recreational activities and casual use spaces,” $2 million
  • Maintenance of synthetic turf fields, $300,000

Community Infrastructure ($53.3 million) 

  • Courthouse and Arlington County Police Department building upgrades, $13.1 million
  • Facilities design and construction, $12.7 million
  • Courthouse renovations and infrastructure, $12 million
  • Fire station replacements and additions, $7.4 million
  • Neighborhood Conservation projects, $5 million
  • Facilities maintenance capital, $3.1 million

Arlington Public Schools ($165 million) 

  • Career Center expansion project, $135.97 million
  • Improvements to kitchens and secure entrances, $12.24 million
  • Major infrastructure projects, $16.8 million

Stormwater ($39.76 million)

Capacity Improvements

  • Spout Run Watershed, $13.26 million
  • Langston Blvd and Sycamore Street culverts, $6.75 million
  • Torreyson Run Watershed, $5.95 million
  • Other capacity improvement projects, $8 million

Water Quality Improvements

  • Gulf Branch Stream, $2.75 million
  • Sparrow Pond Watershed, $1.275 million
  • Other water quality improvements, $1.75 million

Utilities ($177.36 million) 

  • Meeting more stringent environmental regulations at the Water Pollution Control Plant, and increasing capacity there to meet Arlington’s growing population and development, $159.5 million
  • Improving the Washington Aqueduct system, $15 million
  • Improving gravity transmission mains, $2.9 million

The deadline to register to vote this year is Oct. 18. Voters can check their registration status online through the State Dept. of Elections.

Those planning to vote on Election Day may have a change in their polling location. Arlington County is sending out mailers with their district and polling place information for the General Election.

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Voting at Swanson Middle School in November 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington could use ranked choice voting in next year’s primaries, ARLnow reported yesterday.

From our article:

The system, also known as “instant runoff,” prompts voters to rank candidates and a winner is selected over the course of many elimination rounds.

The Board could vote in November to introduce ranked-choice voting (RCV) during the primaries next June. […]

The survey of voter preferences went live yesterday (Wednesday). From now until Nov. 4, locals can share any comments and questions they have about RCV, whether they’ve voted that way before and — on a scale of “very unfavorably” to “very favorably” — how they view it.

The county may be surveying residents, but we also wanted to gauge reader opinions on ranked choice voting, which some see as a way to encourage more candidate diversity while minimizing the chance that a fringe candidate wins due to other candidates splitting the vote.

RCV is also being recommended by a citizen task force that was charged with recommending ways to improve Arlington politics.

Opponents say ranked choice is confusing to voters, produces results similar to standard plurality voting, and is inferior to conducting an actual runoff election between the top vote-getting candidates.

What do you think?

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Voting stickers (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Ranked-choice voting could be coming to Arlington as soon as next spring.

But first, the county wants residents to share whether they would like to vote this way for Arlington County Board members. The system, also known as “instant runoff,” prompts voters to rank candidates and a winner is selected over the course of many elimination rounds.

The Board could vote in November to introduce ranked-choice voting (RCV) during the primaries next June.

“In proposing we do this resolution in November, I’m trying to maximize the amount of time for outreach,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said during a meeting on Tuesday. “We probably don’t want to start advertising a new election system before this year’s election, lest we sow confusion.”

The survey of voter preferences went live yesterday (Wednesday). From now until Nov. 4, locals can share any comments and questions they have about RCV, whether they’ve voted that way before and — on a scale of “very unfavorably” to “very favorably” — how they view it.

“I know Board members are still forming their opinions, but I do think there is more appetite for taking on primaries as a pilot,” Cristol said. “We’re all really looking forward to hearing from the community directly.”

Ranked-choice voting graphic (via Arlington County)

She said 2023 is an ideal year to introduce the new system, since two County Board seats will be on the ballot.

“Voters are more likely to see a difference between ranked-choice voting and the traditional system, and learn how the system works,” she said.

Two-seat years already have an element of ranking, said Board Member Libby Garvey. During such races, she said she would ask voters for their second vote if she wasn’t their No. 1 pick.

“So it really keeps you from being too partisan and too negative, which I think will be a very good thing these days,” she said. “It might bring back some civility in our public life, which would be great.”

Proponents also say it helps more moderate candidates get elected while opponents say it confuses voters.

Legally, the Board has until March 22, 2023 to enact RCV for the June 20 primary, Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer tells ARLnow. State law requires a lead time of 90 days.

“Since Ranked Choice Voting could impact someone’s decision to run for office, it’s my understanding that the preference is to determine if RCV will be used in advance of the campaign filing window,” she said in an email. “The filing deadline for candidates is January [to] March.”

The change would only apply to primaries run by the Office of Elections, she said. Early next year, local political parties will declare whether they will pick their nominee via a primary run by Arlington’s election office or a party-run convention.

“If the County Board approves a resolution that the primary in 2023 will use RCV, then that is the only option the parties will have if they choose to have a county-run primary,” she said. “They still have the option to choose to run their own nominating event.”

This time last year, Board members signaled interest in using instant runoff for the 2022 primary but that didn’t happen because Arlington needed the state Department of Elections to update its machines and codify standards for administering elections this way, Cristol said.

Technically, the county has had the ability to enact RCV since 2021. At the request of Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), the state granted Arlington the ability to test out the system one year before other Virginia localities, which were permitted to implement ranked-choice voting on or after July 1, 2022.

Moving forward before the state “would’ve cost us millions of dollars” to buy new machines to process the votes, Cristol said.

Independent candidates for County Board have criticized the decision to wait last year and this year. Candidate Adam Theo has chalked it up to a lack of political will, seeing as the system could make it easier for candidates without a party endorsement to win.

Last fall, the Arlington Electoral Board conducted public engagement with a Q&A and a “mock election,” in which participants used ranked-choice voting to choose their favorite farmers market.

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Arlington County Board “Missing Middle” work session (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington County and School boards would be more competitive and diverse if they were bigger, better-paid and elected via ranked-choice voting, says a group of community leaders and former elected officials.

For about two years, members of the Arlington County Civic Federation Task Force in Government and Election Reform (TiGER) considered how to improve county politics by meeting with community members and hearing from other jurisdictions.

TiGER suggests elections where voters rank candidates by preference, with winners selected over the course of elimination rounds. It recommends expanding the five-member County and School boards to seven, paying them more, and electing three to four members every two years. To increase the boards’ sway in the region, chairs would have two-year terms, with the possibility for a second term.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity right now to improve both the electoral and governance systems of the county to ensure that both the County Board and School Board better represent our diverse community as well as promote effective citizen engagement with our county government,” Allan Gajadhar, TiGER chair and immediate past president of CivFed, told the Arlington Committee of 100 last week.

Some of these ideas are already on the table: Early next year, the Arlington County Board could consider ranked-choice voting, which Virginia has allowed since July 2021. Meanwhile, $20,000 raises for County Board members were part of the Fiscal Year 2023 county budget (for the School Board, wages sit at only $25,000 for members and $27,000 for the chair).

Instead, some attendees were interested in bigger changes, including one TiGER ultimately dismissed: district-based representation.

They pressed Gajadhar and another TiGER member, former School Board Chair Tannia Talento, to explain why redistricting won’t work. They asked if Arlington should become a city with a mayor, or if voters should elect the County Manager, who the County Board appoints.

One asked whether chairs should be elected for four-year terms, not chosen by sitting board members to lead for one year. Another expressed interest in setting aside a County Board seat or two for members of non-dominant political parties.

Problems facing Arlington today

TiGER levied heavy criticism of Arlington’s political landscape. It said the County and School boards do not adequately reflect the the county’s racial and ethnic, socioeconomic and viewpoint diversity, in part because Arlington has had five-person boards since 1930, despite the population being eight times larger today.

Elections don’t ensure proportional representation, encourage the most qualified and diverse candidates or provide competitive races in general elections, it said. Primaries and caucuses discourage people from running and voting and prevent federal employees from running.

These critiques are shared by independent County Board candidates and skeptics of how the Arlington County Democratic Party endorses candidates for the non-partisan School Board. Those who lose the caucus in the spring agree not to run unaffiliated in November, making the end result similar to a primary.

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Morning Notes

A runner passes a construction site in Courthouse (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Capital Plan, Bond Referenda Approved — “The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a $3.9 billion ten-year Capital Improvement Plan that focuses on stormwater management and flood response, climate and environmental programs, parks, transportation, and community infrastructure over the next decade… [as well as] bond referenda totaling $510.5 million to be put before Arlington voters on the November ballot.” [Arlington County]

GOP Group Wants Fewer Vote Drops — “A Republican group seeking to have Arlington election officials reduce the number of 24-hour voting dropboxes in the county got something of a cold shoulder at the July 14 Electoral Board meeting… Representatives of a national Republican voter-integrity effort asked that the number of dropboxes be reduced from nine to as few as three, citing both cost and ballot-integrity issues.” [Sun Gazette]

Primary Voting Stats — “About 57 percent of the just over 25,000 voters who cast ballots in the primary did so on Election Day at polling precincts, according to data reported to Arlington Electoral Board members on July 14. About 30 percent cast ballots by mail, and the remaining 13 percent cast ballots in advance at one of three early-voting sites.” [Sun Gazette]

Car Show This Weekend — The Green Valley antique and classic car show is happening this Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at Drew Elementary School. The 8th annual event will also feature a parade. [Twitter]

Family Bike Ride Planned — From Kidical Mass ARL: “Tour de Spraygrounds! This Saturday 7/23 meet at 11am at Mosaic Park in @Ballston (come early to play in the water!) We’ll bike on neighborhood streets down to the sprayground at @PenroseSquare. All are welcome. Tell your friends.” [Twitter]

Car Crash PSA — From Dave Statter: “Video of the crash with 1 hurt this afternoon on I-395N at Boundary Channel provides a good reminder. Before getting out of your vehicle after a collision make sure it’s safe to do so & your vehicle is secure & won’t continue to roll.” [Twitter]

Arlington-Born Gym Expanding — “A boutique gym is bringing its boxing-inspired workouts to Fairfax County. Introduced to Rosslyn in 2018, BASH Boxing will soon extend its reach beyond Arlington County for the first time with a new studio at the Mosaic District in Merrifield.” [FFXnow]

It’s Thursday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 92 and low of 78. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Voting at Swanson Middle School in Westover in November 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) The ballot for the general election has been set, with three races to be decided by local voters.

Multiple candidates for Arlington County Board, School Board and the 8th Congressional District have qualified for the ballot. The first day of in-person early voting is Friday, Sept. 23 and the last day to register to vote is Monday, Oct. 17, according to Arlington’s election office.

8th Congressional District

In the 8th Congressional District Democratic primary, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer overcame challenger Victoria Virasingh. Beyer goes on to the general election to face the GOP nominee, Arlington resident Karina A. Lipsman, and independent candidate Teddy Fikre.

The seat for the 8th District, which encompasses Arlington, Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, has been held by a Democrat for decades. Beyer won a crowded primary for former Congressman Jim Moran’s seat in 2014 and the general election later that year.

Lipsman was nominated “to take on the progressive establishment,” said an email from the Arlington GOP after the nomination.

Lipsman, who is originally from Ukraine, outlines priorities such as supporting law enforcement, opposing tax increases, stopping illegal immigration and her stance against abortion on her website. She says she supports school choice and community colleges, technical schools and vocational training programs.

Among issues Beyer lists on his campaign website are climate change, housing, immigration, gun violence prevention, the federal workforce and others.

Fikre’s website says he is an IT project manager with an MBA from Johns Hopkins University, cares about inclusive justice and “implementing policies that restore fairness in America and enacting laws that are rooted in love.” Among issues he’s focused on are making taxes voluntary for the working, middle and upper-middle-class, as well as forgiving all student loans.

Arlington County Board

Three familiar names are up for consideration for a County Board seat. Incumbent Matt de Ferranti was not challenged for the Democratic nomination.

During his tenure on the board, de Ferranti says he has focused on Covid response, racial equity and priorities like affordable housing, hunger, climate change and school funding.

Two independent candidates will also be on the ballot — and not for their first time — seeking a seat.

Independent Adam Theo, who is vice president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, is running on a platform of expanding government accountability, prioritizing public safety and making housing affordable. Theo describes himself as “a fierce non-partisan free-thinking ‘progressive libertarian.'” He was previously deployed to eastern Afghanistan while serving in the Air Force Reserve as a civil engineer.

This is Theo’s second time running for the County Board in as many years. Last year, he ran in a crowded County Board race for the seat that Democrat Takis Karantonis occupies.

Civic activist Audrey Clement is also running as an independent, seeking to reduce taxes, stop up-zoning, and preserve parks, trees and historic places. She said on her website she’s running “because the Board has pushed harmful policies resulting in: overcrowded schools, gentrification, loss of green space, and a 10 year average annual effective tax rate increase that is twice the rate of inflation.”

The Westover resident has been a perennial candidate over the last decade or so and says she believes once people realize the ‘Missing Middle’ housing push will rezone some neighborhoods, they will support a candidate like her.

Arlington School Board

After some commotion surrounding the Democratic endorsement for the School Board seat up for grabs, only two names will be on the ballot: James Vell Rives and Bethany Sutton.

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