Arlington Democrats identify strong nominee despite coronavirus challenges, debut use of Universal Tabulator to speed vote count, and decry Virginia Supreme Court’s refusal to extend election date to allow vote-by-mail
Thursday, May 7, 2020, ARLINGTON, Va.—Takis Karantonis Thursday morning became the Democratic Party nominee for the July 7 Arlington County Board special election, after the Arlington County Democratic Committee overcame pandemic-related challenges to identify its nominee in only 14 days.
“Arlington Democrats are excited to announce Takis Karantonis as our party’s nominee for the Arlington County Board,” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said. “Takis has the experience, acumen and integrity to build upon the progressive record of Erik Gutshall. We’ll hit the ground running today to ensure his victory on July 7.”
Karantonis is an economist, urban planner and nonprofit leader who touts his immigrant status for understanding “the strength and power of our diversity.” Karantonis was executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, and now directs micro-lending for the Ethiopian Community Development Council, an Arlington-based nonprofit. In addition to volunteer work with the Democratic Party, Karantonis serves as vice chair of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, and previously was president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association and board chair of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (now known as EcoAction Arlington). Before immigrating to the United States from Greece and settling in Arlington 14 years ago after stops in Houston and Nashville, Karantonis worked in municipal procurement, public sanitation contracting and airport development in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France and Spain. Karantonis speaks eight languages and is a graduate of Leadership Arlington and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.
“Today, we unify as a Democratic party,” Karantonis said. “We join together and continue to fight for and uphold our Democratic values. We work to ensure our community is one that continues to offer safe and walkable neighborhoods, ethnic and cultural diversity, excellent schools, public places and facilities, accountable government,. and commitment to community involvement. These values will guide us to successfully overcome the COVID-19 pandemic by first and foremost standing with the thousands of Arlingtonians now in distress, as well as our businesses, nonprofits and communities.”
Arlingtonians interested in speaking with Karantonis about his County Board priorities can do so at a “virtual coffee hour” hosted by Arlington Democrats Sunday (May 10) at 11 a.m. It’s the first of many events Arlington Democrats and the Karantonis campaign will host in the lead-up to the July 7 election. Details about the Sunday coffee hour and future events will be posted to the Arlington Democrats online calendar and Facebook event page as they are finalized.
Universal Tabulator Used for First Time in Arlington to Accelerate Vote Count
To meet the unreasonably short nomination deadline for the special election while adhering to social distancing requirements, the Arlington Democrats for the first time used the Universal Tabulator—an open-source, electronic tool—to tabulate the results of the nomination caucus. The Universal Tabulator is a federally tested program designed to facilitate ranked-choice voting processes anywhere in the country. It has been used in government-administered elections for local offices in Utah, Maine and other states. The caucus results from the tabulator are:
In addition to facilitating the tabulation of the votes, the Universal Tabulator is compatible with an open-source visualizer for the data, which enables even greater insight into the instant runoff voting process. The following Sankey diagrams, drawn from the visualizer, demonstrate the flow of votes between candidates, round-over-round:
“We are very pleased with the speed, efficiency and ease-of-use of the Universal Tabulator and expect to make use of it in future, party-run nomination contests,” Arlington Democrats Deputy Chair and Caucus Head Teller Maggie Davis said. “It’s a great example of Arlington Democrats innovating to overcome challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Virtual Nomination Process Conducted After Arlington Democrats’ Worked Determinedly to Extend Special Election Date to Allow Inclusive Mail-In Selection
The commonwealth late last month set the special election’s July 7 date to fill the seat suddenly left open by Gutshall’s April 16 death. Virginia law meant that date translated into a mere 14-day window for political parties to conduct their nominating processes during a pandemic.
To secure more time for an open nomination process, Arlington Democrats first appealed to Virginia political leaders by launching a public petition—which has secured nearly 1,000 signatures to-date—imploring them to extend the election date. Last week, the Arlington County Board subsequently petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to extend the date, which Arlington Democrats supported in a letter to the court. The Arlington County delegation to the Virginia General Assembly also issued a statement supporting the date extension, and Arlington Democrats published an open letter again urging commonwealth leaders to take action necessary to extend the special election timeline.
The court’s refusal to extend the election date left Arlington Democrats no choice but to conduct a closed nomination process, which was decided by about 250 members of its Steering and County committees. “Arlington Democrats did all that we could to convince the Virginia Supreme Court to extend the special election timeline to permit a vote-by-mail process open to all voters,” Caiazzo said. “The refusal to do so by a court dominated by Republican appointees is yet another reminder of the importance of Democrats fighting—and winning—in each and every election. We’ll now work non-stop to elect Takis to the County Board on July 7.”