More than 5,700 Voters Cast Ballots in Committee’s First All-Mail Contest, Enabling Voter Access During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Tuesday, June 2, 2020, ARLINGTON, Va.—Education policy specialist and former teacher Cristina Diaz-Torres and community activist and former business executive David Priddy today earned the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsement for two Arlington School Board seats in the Nov. 3 general election. These results are the culmination of a two-month process transformed by the Arlington Democrats to safely enable voting in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Arlington School Board’s thoughtful stewardship of our schools is a big part of what makes Arlington such an attractive place for both families and businesses,” Arlington Democrats School Board Endorsement Caucus Director Jacki Wilson said. “We congratulate Cristina and David, and thank all five candiates who stepped up to serve their community and sought our endorsement.”
Diaz-Torres is an education policy specialist who began her career as a part-time preschool teacher at a Head Start program, and then worked as a high school math teacher in Las Vegas, where she taught geometry and founded an AP statistics program. After leaving the classroom, Diaz-Torres served as a legislative fellow for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, where she worked on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the 2015 federal law that replaced the No Child Left Behind Act governing U.S. K–12 public education policy.
Diaz-Torres earned a bachelor’s degree from New York University, with dual majors in economics and history, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, specializing in secondary mathematics.
“I am honored to join David Priddy as your Democratically endorsed candidates for Arlington School Board,” Diaz-Torres said. “The events of the past eight days show why it’s so important to create a collaborative framework for education governance where teachers, parents, caregivers, and community leaders work to co-create policies that benefit all students. With my perspective as an educator and David’s as a parent, we will work with the current Board Members and Superintendent Durán to create an APS wherein every student has a right to succeed.”
An Arlington native, community activist and former business executive, Priddy attended Arlington Public Schools. He and his wife have two sons who also attend local public schools.
Priddy serves on numerous education-related councils and committees, including the: Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Equity and Excellence; County Council of PTAs (CCPTA); and the NAACP Education Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from James Madison University.
“I am honored that Cristina Diaz-Torres and I have been chosen by the caucus voters to represent the Democrats in the November election for Arlington County School Board. I look forward to collaborating with Cristina and the rest of the School Board as we continue to promote a platform around equity to Arlington Public Schools. Your voices for change have been heard, and I am proud and humbled to have the support of the caucus and all of you.”
The seats for which Diaz-Torres and Priddy will contend are being vacated by Board member Nancy Van Doren and Board Chair Tannia Talento at the end of their current terms.
The three other candidates who vied for Arlington Dems’ endorsement were: attorney Steven Krieger, retired high school educator Sandy Munnell, and U.S. Army veteran and veteran’s rights and health care advocate Terron Sims.
Arlington Democrats Undertake Unprecedented Efforts to Ensure Fair and Accessible Caucus Participation in Face of COVID-19 Pandemic
A week after Gov. Ralph Northam’s issued a stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arlington Democrats planned and launched the first-of-its-kind mail-in endorsement caucus to minimize voters’ exposure to COVID-19.
More than 5,700 ballots were cast, far exceeding the 1,994 ballots cast in the 2019 in-person School Board caucus, and drawing within about 200 votes of the county caucus record of 5,972 votes, set in the 2017 School Board caucus. The latter also featured a County Board nomination contest, which likely drew additional voters.
“It will take more than a global pandemic to prevent Arlington voters from exercising our right to vote,” Caiazzo said.
In addition to the substantial organizational and logistical work the mail-in caucus required, Arlington Democrats undertook a significant effort to ensure as many voters as possible were aware of the mail-in caucus and were able to cast ballots. This effort included outreach to more than 40 news organizations and 70 community organizations across Arlington, phone banking to Hispanic voters and voters living in affordable-housing units, and text-banking to more than 3,000 voters.
The Arlington Democrats’ network of more than 200 Precinct Captains and Building Ambassadors also spread the word throughout all 54 Arlington voting precincts. All of this work was reinforced by substantial social media communication and virtual candidate events, reaching tens of thousands of potential voters. The ballot request form and caucus promotional materials also were translated into Spanish for the first time.
Arlington Democrats Again Turned to the Universal Tabulator to Accelerate Vote Count
For the second time in as many months, Arlington Democrats turned to the Universal Tabulator to apply ranked-choice voting and quickly determine the two nominees. Ranked-choice voting allows voters to submit ballots that list not only their first-choice candidate, but also their second, third, fourth, etc. The Universal Tabulator is an electronic, open-source, federally tested program for facilitating ranked-choice voting that has been used in government-administered elections for local offices in several states.
Arlington Democrats used the Universal Tabulator for the first time in May’s caucus, in which economist, urban planner and nonprofit leader Takis Karantonis was nominated as the Democratic candidate for the July 7 special election to fill the County Board seat left open by the April death of Erik Gutshall.
The School Board caucus results from the tabulator are:
Endorsee 1 (First Stage of Tabulation): Cristina Diaz-Torres
Endorsee 2 (Second Stage of Tabulation): David Priddy
Besides expediting vote tabulations, the Universal Tabulator works with an open-source visualizer that can provide even greater insight into instant runoff voting. The following Sankey diagram shows the flow of votes between the five candidates, round-over-round:
Stage 1 Tabulation
Stage 2 Tabulation
“We again were very happy with how fast, efficient and easy to use the Universal Tabulator was,” Arlington Democrats Head Caucus Teller Inta Malis said. “It has transformed our approach to tabulating the results of party-run caucuses.”
Arlington Democrats to Voters: Continue Momentum by Requesting Absentee Ballots for July 7 Special County Board Election—and Beyond
To minimize virus-related health risks, Arlington Democrats urge voters to apply to vote absentee-by-mail in 2020’s remaining elections. Virginia law allows voters to cast ballots absentee-by-mail to reduce their chances of contracting the virus at busy polling places. The next Arlington election is July 7 for the County Board seat for which Karantonis is the Democratic nominee.
The deadline to request a mail-in ballot for that election is 5 p.m. on June 30. Instructions on how to request absentee ballots online, and to register to vote for residents not yet registered, are on the Arlington Democrats website. County Board special election ballots must be received—not postmarked—by 7 p.m. on Election Day, July 7.
“We encourage Arlington voters to act now to vote absentee-by-mail for both the July 7 special election and the Nov. 3 general election, when we’ll return compassionate and capable Democrats to Congress, the County and School boards, and the White House,” Caiazzo said.