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Tuesday, December 7, 2021
ArlingtonPoliticsArlington Co. Board work session to focus on ranked-choice voting

Arlington Co. Board work session to focus on ranked-choice voting

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Arlington County Board members next month will take a closer look at the proposal to impose ranked-choice voting on County Board elections.

Board members have slated an Oct. 5 work session with election personnel to discuss the option, which has been available in Arlington since 2020 but has not yet been implemented.

The meeting will be open to the public, although there will be no public participation.

Under ranked-choice voting, those casting ballots can (but are not required to) rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the lowest-scoring candidate is eliminated and his/her votes are reassigned to others as directed by the voter. The process repeats until one candidate achieves an absolute majority.

Currently, state law permits localities to change from a winner-take-all system to a ranked-choice system only for governmental bodies (boards of supervisors or city councils). The Virginia Department of Elections is formulating regulations for such voting, although state legislation in 2020 allowed Arlington to jump the line and implement it earlier, if County Board members wished. (So far, they have not.)

County Board members could opt to use the new format for general elections, primaries or both. A final decision could come by the end of the year.

“We don’t make the decision – we would implement whatever the County Board wants to do,” said Electoral Board chairman Matt Weinstein.

The Electoral Board’s vice chairman, Kim Phillip, said any imposition of ranked-choice voting must be preceded by outreach to explain the process.
“The voter-education piece is going to be very important – very, very important,” she said.

Many Arlington voters already are familiar with ranked-choice (or “instant-runoff”) voting, as the Arlington County Democratic Committee has used it for a number of caucus elections in recent years. In two cases – once for County Board and once for School Board – the candidate who would have won under winner-take-all rules ended up being defeated by a come-from behind competitor.

At the earliest, ranked-choice voting would be implemented in 2022 for Arlington races. All four candidates seeking the lone County Board seat on the Nov. 2 ballot say they support making the change.

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