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ArlingtonPolitical ‘pre-clearance’ returns, at state level this time

Political ‘pre-clearance’ returns, at state level this time

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For the past eight years, Arlington and other Virginia jurisdictions have not been required to obtain “pre-clearance” for alterations to a wide array of election matters.

And while a different form of pre-approval soon will be required, county election leaders do not expect it to be as onerous as before.

“I don’t think this will have a huge impact on what we do day to day,” said Arlington Electoral Board chair Matt Weinstein, speaking at the Electoral Board’s March 25 meeting.

During the 2021 General Assembly session, legislators enacted a measure requiring Virginia localities to garner pre-approval from the Virginia Department of Elections for a number of election-related changes that, even tangentially, could run afoul of civil-rights legislation.

If that sounds uncannily like the pre-clearance provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act, under which Virginia localities toiled for several decades, it is. The pre-clearance portion of the act, in effect since the 1960s, was among parts struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

How pre-clearance at the state-government level – which goes into effect July 1 – will operate in practice remains something of a work in progress, but Scott McGeary, the Arlington Electoral Board’s secretary, said it likely would be an improvement over the “very cumbersome” federal procedure of days gone by.

“The state process has got to be better,” McGeary said.

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