“Rowdy” might be the most apt description of the Arlington County Republican Committee’s rank-and-file reaction to Arlington’s new ranked-choice-voting initiative.
“This seems insane,” one voice from the back remarked as the county’s elections director, Gretchen Reinemeyer, outlined that new voting procedure at the party’s monthly meeting, held May 22.
Another suggested that the new - and, to many, confusing – voting change may have been implemented for nefarious means. “Chaos eventually leads to tyranny,” one GOP member opined during a question-and-answer session.
They were, in a sense, shooting the messenger, as Reinemeyer and her office had no role in mandating ranked-choice voting for the coming June 20 Democratic primary (and, potentially, the general election) for County Board.
“Please don’t get mad at me; I’m not trying to sell you on this,” Reinemeyer said before audience members tempered their comments a bit.
She noted that local election officials were on the receiving end of mandates from the General Assembly, Virginia Department of Elections and Arlington County Board. Those with concerns should “reach out to your elected representatives,” Reinemeyer said. “We’re just running the election.”
“It’s perfectly normal to have concerns,” Reinemeyer said as she ran through how the process will work. “Our goal is to try and educate voters before they get to the [voting] booth.”
And that effort was appreciated, said Frank Lusby, who heads the Arlington GOP’s election-integrity unit.
Reinemeyer and her office are “very gracious and open,” he said. “Whenever we have questions, they do a good job responding.”
Arlington will become the first jurisdiction in Virginia to use ranked-choice voting in a state-run election, relying on authority granted several years ago by the General Assembly. But both Democrats and Republicans in Virginia have used the process in their own party-run nominating contests, including a ranked-choice election in 2021 that selected GOP nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.
Since then, though, some Republican groups, across Virginia and nationally, have swung against the election method. Fairfax Republicans recently adopted a resolution opposing it.
Scott McGeary, a longtime Republican activist and currently a GOP member of the Arlington Electoral Board, said those with concerns about the possible expansion of ranked-choice voting to other offices need to speak up where it counts.
“You can influence what happens in the future by talking to [General Assembly] legislators now,” he said.
“Include the governor,” added Arlington County GOP chairman Matthew Hurtt. “Flex your civic muscle.”
County Republicans plan to dispatch representatives to polling places on June 20 to gauge the public’s reaction to the switch. A formal policy position from the party could come later.
Hurtt tried to channel the tension in the room by making another in a long line of pitches for candidates in the 2023 races.
“If you don’t like those policies, there are five General Assembly seats in Arlington open this year,” he said.