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Arlington election officials aim to spread word on ranked-choice

Many still may not be aware of format change for County Board elections

Consider 2023 to have been the opening act when it comes to the logistics of ranked-choice voting (RCV) in Arlington. But now the big show is set to take the stage.

With county voters this November having one ranked-choice election (for County Board) interspersed among the traditional winner-take-all format, things could become, well, interesting.

The county’s elections-office staff spent much of last year providing outreach on the new format, but “we just kept speaking to what we felt like were the same 200 people,” county elections director Gretchen Reinemeyer sighed during an April 2 budget work session with County Board members.

As for the other potential 150,000 or so residents who could be taking part in the Nov. 5 presidential election? “We really need to find a way to get to them – it is a bit of a challenge,” Reinemeyer acknowledged.

While arguments pro and con about RCV have been waged in Arlington for several years, there’s no doubt that many remain unaware of the format switch for County Board elections. That’s particularly true of presidential-election-only voters, the civic equivalent of churches’ “C&E” (Christmas and Easter) parishioners, who are less likely to pay heed to voting changes than those who cast ballots religiously.

One countywide tutorial will be provided during voting for the June 18 Democratic primary, which will feature the County Board race and be conducted under RCV rules. Last year, the same primary also was run under RCV, but after complaints were raised, County Board members opted not to extend it to the 2023 County Board general election.

Among the efforts in 2024 will be expansion of resources for the county’s elections hotline. In the last presidential-election year, “our phone lines were overwhelmed,” Reinemeyer noted.

“A presidential election is unlike any other,” she said. “Each one is unique, making them difficult to prepare for.”

County Board members said they stand by to provide extra funding as needed.

“It’s our intent here to ensure you have everything you need,” board member Susan Cunningham said.

Electoral Board chairman Richard Samp (R), who accompanied Reinemeyer to the budget workshop, said the office was good at matching needs with resources provided.

“Your money is very well-spent,” he said.