The Arlington County Electoral Board didn’t exist in 1918. That’s because neither did Arlington County – it wasn’t until 1920 that the county portion of what was then Alexandria County was renamed Arlington County to avoid confusion with the City of Alexandria.
There was, however, an electoral board in Alexandria County that was responsible for running elections, although few records exist from this time period. There was a separate electoral board in the City of Alexandria, a portion of the county that had previously been recognized as a town but was incorporated as a city in 1852.
Although there is little information available about the 1918 General Election, we do know it included races for US Senate and House of Representatives, as does our election in 2018. We recently discovered documents whereby the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia apparently notified local electoral boards of candidates that qualified for the ballot, ordering the local boards to conduct the election.
One such notice indicates that Charles C. Carlin had qualified to run for House of Representatives in the 8th Congressional District. Mr. Carlin, the incumbent Congressman, was an attorney whose family published the Alexandria Gazette.
Another such notice from the same year states that Thomas S. Martin qualified for the office of U.S. Senate. Although there is indication that both men were successful in their elections, little additional information is available.
What is particularly of interest is that some long-ago member of the electoral board apparently used the back of the notice for Mr. Carlin to figure out how many ballots should be printed for each precinct for the election. Written in a somewhat leaky fountain pen, we can tell the precincts where the highest turnout was expected, based on the number of ballots ordered.
The largest number was for the Del Ray Precinct, with a whopping 500 ballots. Del Ray, which is now a neighborhood in the City of Alexandria, was apparently considered part of Alexandria County at the time, and thus under the jurisdiction of the Alexandria County Electoral Board.
In addition to Del Ray, the precincts listed are Clarendon, Ballston, Arlington, Rosslyn, Cherrydale, Falls Church, and Carne School. It’s not clear whether the Falls Church precinct included what was then the Town of Falls Church in Fairfax County, or the area of Arlington now known as East Falls Church.
Carne School, named after a former Alexandria Superintendent Richard L. Carne, was located in North Arlington, on the site of what is now St. Mark’s United Methodist Church on N. Glebe Rd. The other precincts roughly correspond to today’s Arlington neighborhoods, with the Arlington precinct covering most of what today is South Arlington.
It’s pretty clear that in 1918, the less-populated areas of Arlington were in the north, indicated by the low ballot numbers ordered for the Falls Church and Carne School precincts.
From these long-ago notes, it seems a total of 2000 ballots were ordered in 1918 for eight precincts.
How have things changed: Today we have 54 precincts, a 575% increase in 100 years. And for the 2018 election, we ordered 116,400 ballots, a 5,720% increase.
Posted September 20, 2018
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