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Changes to Arlington voting precincts are inevitable in the coming year. But county election officials hope to use a scalpel, rather than a sledgehammer, in getting the job done.
“Move as few voters as possible – that has been our guiding principle,” county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer said during an Oct. 5 work session with County Board members.
Election officials redraw precinct maps from time to time to account for growth. But once every 10 years, as federal census data are released, the maps have to be tinkered with more significantly to accommodate changes in the lines of General Assembly districts.
Despite population growth of 14 percent between 2010 and 2020, the county has added only two precincts in the past decade, bringing its total to 54. Addressing the population growth could be done through redrawing precinct lines, adding new precincts or a combination.
“There are a lot of ways to address this,” Reinemeyer said.
Ten of Arlington’s precincts currently accommodate more than 3,500 voters – high, but manageable – but one had 5,300 and “is one of the biggest precincts in the commonwealth,” the elections chief said.
That precinct, whose voters cast ballots at Innovation School in the Courthouse area, can’t easily be subdivided because there is a lack of nearby buildings that could accommodate voting. But because voters there have access to the county’s early-voting site at the nearby government center, crowds on Election Day have not been out of control.
“We send them double the equipment everyone else will get” to speed the process, Reinemeyer said.
At the briefing, County Board member Katie Cristol opined that the proposal to keep as many people as possible voting in familiar locations makes sense to her.
“That would be my instinct on the right way forward – disrupting where people vote as little as possible,” she said.