Some Unaware Aware It Was Election Day

Some Unaware Aware It Was Election Day

Primaries are often low turnout events, but only 11 percent voted on June 18

Photo by Eden Brown

Sue Sprague, left, and Martha Solodky, dressed up in patriotic clothes for their stint at the Madison center as poll greeters on behalf of Arlington Democrats.


Apparently, a lot of people didn’t know Tuesday, June 18 was Primary Election Day. Although all those signs along the median, and mailers, should have made it clear, Lisa Bridge, who lives just over the county line in McLean, said a lot of people there had no idea there was an election. She learned about it on the Glebe Park pickleball court an hour before polls closed. 

Poll workers at the Madison Center polling station in Arlington said “turnout was about 300 or so — fairly normal for a primary which tends to be low turnout. A presidential election would bring out about 1,000 voters to the Madison polling place.” 

Sue Sprague and Martha Solodky were dressed up in patriotic clothes for their stint at the Madison center as poll greeters on behalf of Arlington Democrats. They were hoping to sign up more volunteers for election duty in the Fall and get out the vote efforts, but by 6 p.m. their clipboard showed only one name at the top. 

“It’s okay. It’s hot out, and no one has any energy,” they said cheerfully. Solodky has worked for a long time with Arlington Dems, and Sprague, who is from McLean, started this June. 

Volunteer Jamie Usrey had more success engaging volunteers as she greeted voters at Williamsburg Middle School, normally less conservative than Madison.

But other Arlington residents were more concerned about the low turnout and the use of ranked choice voting (again). Jody, chatting after a swim, said she felt the ranked choice system was poorly understood and left open the possibility “gaming it,” and Kathy, standing next to her, said it concerned her that the turnout was poor and that endorsements from big name Democrats like Patrick Hope and Barbara Favola had been key in marshaling votes for the candidate preferred by the Arlington Democrats and current board members. 

A woman working out at the YMCA said she was unhappy with her vote; she had sent in her ballot early and then started reading about candidates and changed her mind, but it was too late. 

The vote highlighted the YIMBY versus NIMBY divide in Arlington. One of those opposed to the “missing middle” decision by the county board allowing developers to build multi-family housing on single family lots bemoaned the “abysmal turnout” saying, “So just 9% of the population (residents who voted) have set the agenda for the remaining 91% of the people living in Arlington.” 

Every year is election year in Virginia. And many years the deciding vote takes place in the primary election.

Natalie Roy, who got about 45 percent of the vote to J.D. Spain Sr.’s 55 percent in the final round (see chart), conceded the election on Friday, wishing Spain well. She noted that the election had made it clear that a large portion of the county was not in favor of the “missing middle zoning decision” made by the Board last year, and that, in her opinion, was a “win.”