As I hope you already know, the Arlington Democrats are holding their School Board Caucus online next week from May 17-23. You’ll find the link to the voting platform, information about how to access in-person assistance from the Arlington Dems, and a brief video demonstrating how to use cast your vote online here.
This is the first year we'll be using an online platform to cast ballots and collect votes. Online voting will provide certain benefits, but it also raises a few thorny issues. I want to talk about one of those issues and explain how I plan to handle it.
In any regular, non-COVID, in-person voting situation, we have safeguards in place to ensure that no voter is pushed into voting a particular way. Candidates, campaign staff and political party volunteers are able to campaign and distribute sample ballots outside a polling place, but they can’t walk in with you and stand next to you at the voting machine.
In a world of online voting, however, this is now possible: a stranger can knock on your door, approach you as you leave the grocery store or the Metro, or engage you while you’re walking to the park with your kids. The voting machine is in their hands. They’re asking you to vote on the spot, and perhaps urging you to vote for a particular person. If you agree and take the mobile device to enter your personal information, there’s no guarantee that you’re even interacting with the official voting website--maybe this is a website someone’s created to look like the real thing.
I think we’ve had quite enough voting- and election-related conflicts in our country over the past few years, and I have no wish to do anything that would raise a doubt in anyone’s mind about the integrity and validity of the voting results.
That’s why you won’t see me or my campaign volunteers out during the Caucus with devices in hand, approaching strangers to collect their actual votes. I have encouraged the Arlington Democrats to add language to the Caucus Rules that would stipulate the following:
Voters in need of assistance are encouraged to contact the Arlington Democrats, vote at one of the Arlington Democrats-sponsored in-person voting locations, or reach out to a trusted friend or family member for assistance. If a voter is approached by a stranger offering to collect their vote, they should decline, contact the Arlington Democrats to report the incident, and then proceed to vote as described immediately above.
I am 100% in favor of efforts to promote broad participation in the Caucus and ensure that people without the means to vote at home have an avenue to do so; however, encouraging candidates and campaigns to collect votes is a recipe for coercion and intimidation, not enfranchisement. I am particularly concerned about how this might affect those with less privilege in our community and anyone who feels uncomfortable being approached in person during a pandemic.
If we think it’s a good idea to go door-to-door with mobile devices in order to boost voter turnout, then this should be done by nonpartisan Caucus officials, not by individuals who have a vested interest in the outcome.
So, May 17-23 you’ll see me and my team using every means at our disposal to ask for your vote--but we won’t be taking your vote, and I’m calling on my opponent to publicly commit to the same.
I have tremendous respect for the Arlington Democrats, who do so much to advance the party’s ideals and turn out voters for local, state, and national elections; but I believe that having candidates standing by the ballot box sets a troubling precedent and is a misstep I don’t want my party to make.