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ArlingtonBattle over county's election dropboxes may resume in 2023

Battle over county’s election dropboxes may resume in 2023

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The first order of business for a Republican organization’s efforts in 2023 could be another run at reducing the number of election dropboxes in the county.

Arlington’s elections office currently provides nine dropbox locations across the county, and “we’re hoping next year that will change,” said Frank Lusby, part of the Arlington GOP Election Integrity Committee, which over the past year has become actively involved in voting issues in the county.

Lusby, who made the comment at the Sept. 27 meeting of the Arlington County Republican Committee, has time on his side: Come January, the Arlington Electoral Board will flip from two Democrats and one Republican to two Republicans and one Democrat, owing to the change in the governorship. The same switch has been occurring across the commonwealth.

Over the summer, the GOP group asked that the number of dropboxes in Arlington be reduced from nine to as few as three, citing both cost and ballot-integrity issues.

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Guidance from state election officials requires Virginia localities to offer at least one ballot dropbox to voters in the 45-day period leading up to elections. Arlington has the largest number of dropboxes on a per-capita basis in Virginia, county registrar Gretchen Reinemeyer acknowledged during the summertime meeting. Fairfax County, which has four times Arlington’s population, makes do with a single dropbox at the county’s government center, she said then.

Just over 1,000 Arlington voters – approximately 4 percent of those casting ballots – used dropboxes in the June 21 Democratic congressional primary. Boxes at Central Library and the county government center were the most frequently accessed, followed by one in Westover.

During the June Electoral Board discussion of the proposal, board vice chair Matthew Weinstein dismissed the idea of reducing dropboxes out of hand.

“This is a non-issue,” Weinstein said, calling the proposal to cut the dropbox total “totally misguided.”

That’s his view, but Arlington County Republican Committee chair Lori Urban has another. “They have been doing a great job,” she said of the GOP’s elections-integrity unit.

And Weinstein won’t have a formal say after Dec. 31; he is the Democrat who will be pushed off the Electoral Board at the end of the calendar year.

That will leave the body with Democrat Kim Phillip, Republican Scott McGeary and a Republican to be named, likely in December, by the Circuit Court based on nominations made by the Arlington County Republican Committee.

In general over the years, the Arlington Electoral Board has worked in a collegial fashion – unlike some such bodies in other parts of the commonwealth, where partisan rancor rules. The question for 2023 may become whether McGeary and the new Republican appointee have interest in pressing proposals emanating from the GOP’s voting-integrity unit.

Technically, it’s the responsibility of the registrar to determine the number of dropboxes, Reinemeyer told the Sun Gazette, although guidance from the state level suggests the registrar should “closely consult” with the three Electoral Board members.

Any decision on the number of dropboxes for a future election would have to be made at least 60 days in advance of the election date.

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