The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Voters respond to door-knockers, not free beer

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Arlington County voters came out strongly for Democrats on Election Day, and that turnout was primarily driven by north Arlington voters, a neat new clickable precinct map shows.

The map, created by Chris Slatt of @alongthepike, drew results from @vaELECT, voter counts from @ArlingtonVotes and precinct geography from Arlington GIS. The biggest voter turnout by percentage came from the Barcroft precinct, which is just south of U.S. 50 and north of Columbia Pike, where 35 percent of voters turned out. The Crystal Plaza precinct in the high-rise district to the east had only 12 percent turnout.

Normally, the strong turnout in affluent and GOP-leaning north Arlington would favor Republicans like Mike McMenamin, who ran as an independent. But he got only 19 percent, coming in a distant third to winners Christian Dorsey (35.7 percent) and Katie Cristol (34.4 percent). As a matter of fact, McMenamin’s strongest showing came in the most Republican of precincts, Madison, where he only came in second, beating Cristol there by just 17 votes. Dorsey won that precinct. Data here from the Virginia Department of Elections.

One exception to the North Arlington dominance came from the interfaith group VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement), which has been at the forefront of the Arlington affordable housing debate. The nonprofit and nonpartisan group spread out Sunday through Tuesday to knock on doors and pass the word of the importance of the County Board election at bus stops in two low-turnout precincts.

The campaign managed to raise the turnout in the Nauck neighborhood by 24 percent and in Arlington Mill by 12 percent, compared to the most recent comparable election in 2011.

“We learned that, when you make the effort to truly engage people around their hopes and dreams, Arlington’s residents will respond and vote,” said the Rev. James E. Victor Jr., of Mount Olive Baptist Church.

Rev. Linda Olson Peebles of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington said the lessons from this voter turnout campaign will serve VOICE well in future elections.

“Our faith traditions teach us the transformative power of coming together in community, and our community organizing teaches us the influence that citizens who engage can have on elected officials’ decisions,” she said. “We look forward to continuing with organized voter participation campaigns to ensure that everyone’s voice AND vote can count.”

What didn’t make a difference was the plan to attract young voters along the Clarendon-Wilson corridor by rewarding them with free or discounted drinks for showing up at the polls. The Election Day bar crawl was a bust, according to bar owners and the organizer.

L. Henry Pratt said only 65 to 70 bracelets were taken by voters. “What we learned are that people are not up for celebrating democracy on a Tuesday night of a work week,” he said.

“Not a single person” redeemed the bar crawl bracelets at Whitlow’s on Wilson, said manager Nadim Kouttab. “Not one.” Just a few nights earlier, the Halloween bar crawl drew a capacity crowd to the bar all night, he said.