The Arlington County Democratic Committee could again be at loggerheads with the county’s elections office over whether to provide satellite locations for absentee voting in non-presidential-election years.
Democrats on Dec. 6 made a press for adding satellite sites, which would have to be funded by the County Board and approved by the Electoral Board – both of which have Democratic majorities but were leery of moving forward with the proposal earlier this year.
“We need in the budget next year some satellite early-voting places,” said Carrie Johnson, who analyzes campaign data for the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
In recent presidential elections, the county elections office has provided in-person-absentee voting at Madison Community Center in North Arlington and Walter Reed Community Center in South Arlington, in addition to the county-government headquarters in Courthouse, where it offers in-person-absentee voting every year.
But when the Democratic committee earlier this year asked the Electoral Board to approve satellite locations for this year’s gubernatorial race, the proposal was met with a cold shoulder, in part due to the timing.
“On a long-term basis, we see this as something that’s coming. I just don’t think now is the time,” county elections chief Linda Lindberg said in March, when the Electoral Board agreed not to move forward with the proposal for 2017.
The Electoral Board currently comprises two Democrats (chairman Charlene Bickford and vice chairman David Bell) and a Republican (secretary Scott McGeary).
Gretchen Reinemeyer, Lindberg’s deputy, said the office does not have a formal position on satellite voting in 2018. Like Lindberg last spring, Reinemeyer said on Dec. 7 that personnel and facilities were a bigger impediment than funding.
“Running multiple absentee-voting locations, even for one or two Saturdays, is extremely labor-intensive,” she said.
Even if the County Board were to fund the personnel and administrative costs involved, it could not actually require the Electoral Board (whose members are appointed by the Circuit Court) to open satellite-voting locations without amending the County Code.
County Board member Libby Garvey said the possibility of every-year absentee-voting centers is one to at least mull over.
“This is something to consider,” she told the Sun Gazette. “In general, I support making voting access easier for people.”