by long-time Arlington Country Treasurer and poll watcher Frank O’Leary
The dust has pretty much settled on this year’s electoral contest but minor adjustments are always possible. The table, which immediately follows, reflects the latest contest and the last three years of voter turnout in Arlington – all record setters.
|The Big Three|
|Year||Type Election||Active Registrants||Total Turnout||Absentee Vote||Percent Turnout||Percent Absentee|
In fact, the only statistic in this table that does not reflect a new record high is Percent Turnout in the Presidential Year. The 86.3% achieved in 2008 has yet to be broken and the 84.6% of 2012 remains in second place.
This year, however, did have one singular characteristic that I have not yet addressed – Drop Off – or the lack thereof in the County Board race. Normally, the County Board Drop Off from the Top of the Ticket is ten to fourteen percent and the School Board race is usually a bit higher. (In my calculations of the break point between the two campaigns, I assumed 10.0%.) This year, School Board Drop Off was 11.6%, while County Board Drop Off was only 6.0%. Thus, 6,043 additional people voted for County Board over School Board with as many as 5,000 of those votes going for Matt de Ferranti. This phenomenon was directly a result of heightened voter interest in the County Board race and intense and well-organized polling place coverage by ACDC – an advantage not shared by John Vihstadt.
This consideration, however, is only part of a larger picture. Even in the absence of the Blue Tsunami of Arlington (“Wave” is too mild) Vihstadt faced a formidable obstacle in his pursuit for re-election – a dedicated infrastructure vowing that there would be no repeat of 2014! In the absence of a countervailing force (evinced by workers at all fifty-four precincts handing out the Republican sample ballot over a thirteen-hour period) the success of his candidacy faced stiff odds. I leave to others possible explanation of this absence.
Turning to my recent assertions concerning the extremely high level of voting in the collapsing Weimar Republic: The ever-vigilant Kip Malinosky points out that voting in the democracy called Australia routinely exceeds 90% – but adds that it is “compulsory.” Kip is correct. According to Thoughtco, Australia adopted compulsory voting in 1924 and is one of more than twenty countries to do so. Prior to then national voting turnout was on the order of 47%. Since then it ranges between 94% and 96%. Those who fail to show up at the polls are subject to a stiff fine unless they have a valid excuse (medical, etc.). None of this, however, is applicable to the Weimar Republic which had no such law, and remains the record holder for a democracy. (The pros and cons of compulsory voting are discussed at thoughtco.com/compulsory-voting and are well worth reading.)
Compulsory voting is only one on several measures that might be considered to improve voter participation. Recently adopted measures such as relaxing the rules on absentee voting and “Early Voting” have certainly improved voter turnout. What if Election Day were held on a weekend or declared a public holiday? (This is the case in: Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico.) Perhaps, that would improve the fact that our Presidential turnout ranks 26th in the world out of 32 legitimate democracies (Newsweek.com).
Changing Election Day nationally would of course require Congressional action. Were a Voting Reform Act be introduced, it might also address the deplorable inconsistencies in voting technology throughout the nation. Such a move might diminish the possibility of the national embarrassment occurring in Florida and provide greater credence to electoral outcomes. (Eliminating voter suppression is probably too much to hope for.)
In the end, however, what has happened in some parts of Florida can be summed up in one word – incompetence. And that brings me to my final point. For nearly forty years, I have observed the actions of Arlington’s Electoral Board and our Registrar of Voters. Never have I seen a single cause for concern. Our bi-partisan Board has consistently worked to ensure the legitimacy and accuracy of our electoral process. Our underpaid and overworked Registrar’s Office, over many years, has demonstrated unfailing loyalty to principle, dedication to duty and unrivaled competence. We can be truly grateful that we posses such outstanding public servants.
With that, I wish you Happy Thanksgiving!