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ArlingtonArlington GOP likely to continue pressing ballot-security theme

Arlington GOP likely to continue pressing ballot-security theme

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When it comes to the sanctity of the election process in Arlington, even the party that usually comes out on the losing end doesn’t have any major complaints.

“Well-run, competent and hard-working” was the phrase used to describe the county elections office and its chief, Gretchen Reinemeyer, at the Arlington County Republican Committee’s annual volunteer-appreciation dinner on Nov. 29.

It wasn’t a testimonial dinner; Reinemeyer was not there to hear the praise. Rather, the remarks were spoken by Frank Lusby, head of the Arlington GOP’s election-integrity team, who while praising the election-office staff said the GOP would maintain and, if possible, increase its presence throughout the election-monitoring process.

“We understand what’s going on and we have eyes on everything,” said Lusby, who said the plan was to make sure “everybody is following the rules” during elections.

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“We would like to invite new volunteers to get involved,” he said.

The GOP dispatched nearly 40 pollwatchers to observe the process during the November election, logging more than 675 hours of service.

The poll-watchers “worked very hard to ensure election integrity,” said John Sellmansberger, who helped lead the effort and received the GOP’s Hilda Griffith Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service at the Nov. 29 dinner.

“This award goes to them,” Sellmansberger said of the poll-watching team and particularly the core of about 10 members actively engaged year-round in the effort.

Until the pandemic, Republicans frequently were absent from Arlington Electoral Board meeting (excepting of course Electoral Board members themselves). Over the past two years, the GOP’s election-integrity team has been vocal at meetings, in particular pushing for a reduction in the number of voting dropboxes in the community.

Republicans contend that having a significant number of dropboxes – there currently are nine – is costly and invited the potential of fraud.

Not surprisingly, Democrats disagree on both counts, and the party leadership in early November pledged to do everything in their power to retain them. But Lusby said Arlington goes overboard, putting out an “inflated number of dropboxes” that serve no great public interest.

“Fairfax has five times our population, and they have only one,” he said (which is true, although Fairfax does provide dropboxes at early-voting sites during peak election periods).

With the Arlington Electoral Board having two Democratic members to a single Republican, the GOP had no real way of pressing the issue this year. But come Jan. 1, a Republican (to be named by the Circuit Court in coming weeks) will replace Democrat Matthew Weinstein on the panel, giving the party a majority for the first time in nearly a decade.

State law and associated guidance from the Virginia Department of Elections leaves determination of how many dropboxes to be distributed across the community to registrars, but – muddying the waters a bit – it also requires them to consult with Electoral Board members on the matter.

If the issue got pushed to an extreme, Electoral Board members do have the power to force out registrars; it has happened in other Virginia jurisdictions, usually in messy fashion, but has not occurred in Arlington, at least over the past 30 years.

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