Arlington County is known for its Smart Growth planning policies, which emphasize transit-oriented development that concentrates density in our Metro corridors. Those corridors, however, have fewer public facilities, such as schools, suitable for polling places.
Recognizing this problem, the County’s Office of Elections and members of the Planning Commission began working together years ago to ensure that residents living in high-density apartment and condominiums in our Metro corridors have easy access to polling places.
Those efforts now have earned Arlington a national award from the Election Center, a nonprofit organization made up largely of voter registration and elections administrators that promotes, preserves and improves democracy.
Arlington won the Election Center’s “Stars and Stripes Award” which recognizes outstanding partnerships for election administration across the nation. The Office of Elections will accept the award August 20 at the Election Center’s 2015 National Conference in Houston, Texas.
CPHD, Elections Office working together for voters
The County was recognized for its Office of Elections working with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development to identify the impact that high-density new residential projects have on polling place locations, and adding a condition to provide for on-site polling places in several site plans.
“Our Metro corridors have few or no public facilities, and many of the public facilities that we do have and use for voting are at capacity,” said Arlington County Director of Elections Linda Lindberg. “If a builder wants to add a 600-unit residential building that means potentially another 1,000 registered voters, with no place for them to vote. One thousand new voters is easily a new voting location. So we ask developers to provide us with suitable locations in the proposed projects as site plan conditions.”
Lindberg credited former Planning Commission Member Carrie Johnson for initiating the concept of including polling places in site plan conditions when warranted, along with former Planning commission Member Peter Fallon, who also served as a poll worker in the County.
Now, planning staff routinely contacts elections staff on high-density projects and works with developers to include polling station space in site plan conditions when needed.
A Crystal Plaza apartment complex and the former Verizon building on Court House Road are two site plan developments where a polling place was made a condition of the site plan. The Crystal Plaza apartment complex provided a ground floor community room that is accessible to persons with disabilities.
“We work with the developers to ensure that the polling place is accessible to the public – luxury party rooms on upper floors that need access via secured elevators just aren’t appropriate,” Lindberg said.
Other projects now under development or awaiting construction include Metropolitan Park and Pentagon Centre in Pentagon City, Central Place in Rosslyn, and future Potomac Yards development south of Crystal City, Lindberg said.
Arlington’s “Planning for Smart Growth” paper was submitted to the Election Center for awards consideration by Deputy Director of Elections Gretchen Reinemeyer, with assistance from Lindberg.