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Votes

Did RA Suppress Vote Tally?

Info leaked to supporters, but not to others.

Sally Carroll, who opposed the revisions to the governing documents, wanted to wait until just before the end of the referendum’s deadline of April 10 to decide whether or not to vote.

She was hoping it’d fail to reach its required 40 percent quorum of eligible voters, the equivalent of 6,828 votes. If it didn’t reach the quorum, she wasn’t going to vote at all. But if it did, she intended to vote no.

Yet when she repeatedly called the Reston Association to find out the vote tally this past week, she was denied any information.

Dozens of other residents who supported the revisions and were helping in efforts to get out the vote had been notified Friday, April 7, that the referendum had already reached the quorum. Because referenda like this historically have about 200 invalid votes, these same residents had worked hard up until the deadline to push the vote tally a few hundred votes beyond the quorum. Official results were scheduled to be announced at the annual meeting Tuesday night, but the announcement has been postponed until Friday, April 14.

DURING THE VOTING period, from Feb. 13 to March 30, RA had publicized the vote count each week to notify members how many more votes were needed to reach the quorum.

On March 30, the day the RA Board of Directors needed to decide whether or not to extend the voting period, they knew the referendum needed exactly 745 more votes to meet the quorum requirement. Based on that information, they decided unanimously to extend the deadline for voting from March 31 to April 10, rather than see the referendum fail because of a lack of votes.

But since March 30, RA stopped publicizing the vote tally. Staff said that the hired consultant to count votes, BDO Seidman, LLP, had been too busy to update the count. BDO staff in charge of counting votes for the governing documents referendum said that it continued to update RA staff with vote tallies, but did not specify when. BDO and Votenet Solutions, the company in charge of Internet ballots, were subsequently directed not to take inquiries from the press.

RA PRESIDENT Jennifer Blackwell said Monday, the last day to vote in the referendum, that she was notified last week that the quorum was still short by a few hundred votes. “We’re 300 shy of the threshold,” she said.

Blackwell, who has invested much of the last three years on the revisions, said she communicated late last week with the board regarding the tally. Blackwell said conversations with board members were “private” and would not discuss them. She argued that because nobody knows the number of invalid votes, RA could not release a tally.

Director Joe Leighton (South Lakes) said Blackwell had called him Friday morning to announce that the referendum had reached the quorum.

“All I know is Jenn called me and told me we hit the number on Friday,” said Leighton. “I assume she called all the board members.”

“She did indicate the number was over the required quorum,” said Director Tim McMahon, adding that she said the information was unofficial.

Leighton said that the purpose of Blackwell’s call was to encourage supporters to keep up the get-out-the-vote efforts to account for the traditional number of invalid votes. “We have no idea how many duplicate votes there are,” said Leighton. “Some [opposed to the revisions] may have [duplicated votes] intentionally.”