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Reston Released Voter Information on 25K Households

by Andrea Swalec October 7, 2014 at 11:00 am 39 Comments

"I voted" sticker. (Photo via Flickr/vox efx)The partial voting records of Reston Association members were released by the group last week in response to a public records request by a member.

The RA says it released information on whether or not each of its 25,700 member households voted in the 2014 Board of Directors election. It also released members’ addresses, but omitted the substance of members’ votes and any other personal information.

The voter records were provided to RA member Irwin Flashman, a six-year resident, on Sept. 29. The RA says it was obligated to release the information under its bylaws and Virginia law.

Flashman said Monday that he wanted the records so he could analyze and try to boost the number of locals who cast their ballots.

“I want to increase voter turnout,” he said. “Something has to be done, and I think before you start doing anything, you need to know what happened.”

Fewer than 15 percent of Reston households cast votes in the March election in which three directors were chosen.

RA President Ken Knueven said the Association’s bylaws and Virginia law on property owners’ associations required the disclosure of the information.

“Under our bylaws and Virginia law, anything on record has to be provided,” Knueven said, adding that he wants Reston residents to know what was released and be comfortable with it.

“I believe voter records are confidential and should remain such,” he said. “We released only information we felt was not confidential.”

Flashman, who received a paper copy of the data, additionally requested an electronic version. The RA is reviewing that request and will discuss it at its full Board meeting Nov. 20.

Reston residents should want to know more about who votes, Flashman said.

“In a democracy, things are done out in the open,” he said. “The fact of voting should be an honor, not something you hide.”

Karen Goff contributed reporting.

  • vdiv

    Perhaps a lack of a vote should be considered a vote on its own. Now that we know that the votes are not confidential expect even a lower turnout.

    Democracy?! Really?!

  • Mike M

    I looked hard at the candidates. They always seem the same. Can’t say no to any good idea. They seem to think that new stuff beats taking care of the old stuff. They also seem uninterested in opinions to the contrary. I guess I lean toward abolishing the RA.

    • Richard Drew

      Reston will not turned over to Fairfax county until the RA is completely hollowed out with staff retirement funds, loans made to fund recreational projects, and uncomplete projects that are unsustainable. Lets make sure of that by always voting and promoting those that promise the most candy for the collective.

      • Mike M

        As correct as you may be, I couldn’t in good conscience do that. Fortunately, there are enough “go-getters” in Reston to do exactly that without having idea what they are doing!

  • Laura Calacci

    Are you blocking my comment on this article?

    • Greg

      We wish!

  • Billy Smith

    I’m appalled at this-I’m not sure which is worse. That Mr. Flashman asked for the records or that RA GAVE him the records! If Mr. Flashman wants to work on improving the democratic process in Reston he could start by respecting the privacy of citizens, then he could volunteer for the Elections Committee which I assume would have some interest in such things as voter turn out.

  • John Lovaas

    Must be a slow news day. Imagine! A resident asked for a list of who voted in the last RA Board election—nothing more. Not how they voted or anything else. RA complied with the request. This happens with a democratic form of governance and is required by law–and has been done previously. Not sure why this newsworthy, but it sure has some folks running in tiny little circles.

    Then come the attacks on RA and those who serve on its Board as volunteers. No specifics, just general attacks. If they have specific complaints about RA actions, they should discuss them and suggest solutions. Better yet, run for the Board and make it better.

    • FreeandFair

      I went back and read the Resolution about Elections and it clearly states that the information about ballots is confidential. I don’t know why anyone would need to know more than how many votes were cast in each district for the purposes of determining if a quorum was reached.

      So why provide a list of which houses voted? Are we going to begin shaming people? I can’t imagine why this information had to be made available to anyone.

    • Mike M

      John, they spend too much money. Is that opinion outlawed? I disagree with you. Can you handle it? Or is everyone who dosagrees with you some kind of fool for their boldness? My point was all the candidates are spendo-maniacs. Always. It’s a problem. Laura provide some juicy specifics.

    • ReasonedReader

      John- why does it seem right to give out the home addresses of those who chose to vote? I have to agree with the other poster, if Mr. Flashman wants to assist in the election process he should join the Elections Committee. Based on my reading of your Reston Patch blog I’m surprised that you are in agreement with this request.

    • Laura Calacci

      John,

      Part of the problem is that RA is NOT a governing body, I know it acts like one, but it isn’t. It is a HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATION. They want to be so much more, and people let them get away with it. They want to be a philanthropic club, choosing to give our dues away to charities that they like (freezing for a reason and the like). They donate to many different causes, all of which I’m sure are worthwhile. But, the point is, they should not give OUR money to any one or any organization. So this whole discussion is about RA doing whatever they want because they can. Who will stop them from supporting their pet organizations and projects? It is a microcosm of big government. And we are just the ones who fund it.

      • John Farrell

        Where HOAs have to take on functions that elsewhere are done by localities, HOAs do become governing bodies.

        The County isn’t plowing the paths and sidewalks, cutting the grass in the medians or operating 14 pools for 60,000 people

        Compare the upkeep of RA facilities to the rusted out eyesores of FCPA if you can find them in our city.

        If Restonians had to wait their turn for County resources in competition with the other 1.1 million FFX residents, we probably would not have one pool.

        • Laura Calacci

          RA does not have to take on these functions. They choose to. The world will not end if the paths are not plowed. They do not cut grass on medians or pick up any trash on our roadways. I have asked repeatedly about the trash and animal carcasses and have been told it is a VDOT responsibility. Same thing for cutting grass on the medians. The pools are here, so I guess RA must operate them, but there are lovely county pools (Oak Marr. for example) . I wish RA would work on Cathy Hudgins to get this stuff taken care of instead of all the other stuff they concern themselves with.

          • John Farrell

            Actually. under the terms of our covenants, yes, RA does have to take on these functions.

            As for the County taking on these functions, just look at the eyesores that are the FCPA facilities in Reston to see how badly that would turn out.

          • Laura Calacci

            Well IF that is the case, why the HELL isn’t the trash picked up? This past summer the median strip along Baron Cameron had weeds that were 5 ft high. Animal carcasses sit for weeks. So if it is for RA to do, they are failing miserably. All the while giving Cate Fulkerson (and probably others) performance bonuses on top of a huge salary. But I repeat, I have been told by RA staff that these are VDOT responsibilities. So I don’t see how it could really be much worse if the RA was phased out and the county took over. We are being robbed twice. Once by the county, then again by RA.

    • 40% Admin Fees

      Here is a more specific attack: Why in the world would I cast a vote for any one of the candidates when NOT ONE OF THEM campaigned on trying to reduce the ridiculous RA fees that we pay. Why the hell is so much money going to “administrative costs” and why can’t the RA actually outline what those are in the annual reports they send out to homeowners? I would love to be more specific, but the RA is not giving residents any more specifics.

      • John Lovaas

        Laura,
        Indeed we have some common grand. Last year, I reviewed a draft of the RA budget and sent some critical comments to RA, concluding in part like you that administrative costs seemed too high. I then travelled and did not followup when I returned. Other than getting emailed assurances that staff would review my detailed points, I never heard back. I doubt there were significant change, or cuts.
        And THIS RA Board has behaved as a RELAC sponsor to the detriment of its members forced to use this antiquated monopoly. And then there’s the opaque land swap.
        Lots of issues.

    • SmellsARat

      Crap- if Lovaas is for it it can’t be good! Something bad is underway!

  • ProudLib

    No gardens for poor people? Nice Ms. Calacci, really nice.

    • Mike M

      Let them eat cake, proud Lib? Don’t you realize you pretty much quoted Marie Antoinette?

      Who are you to take money from anyone and give it to someone else?

      There are PUBLIC gardens, you know.

      Liberalism is full of swell, feel-good ideas. The only problem is they eventually run out of other people’s money.

      Should all poor people have 72 inch TVs too? How about 50 inch? iPads? Where does it end Proud Lib? When the money is gone?

    • Laura Calacci

      RA should not spend 40K (or any amount) on gardens to subsidize the grocery bills of anyone. Nor should they give 5k to South Lakes for the fields. Its like an episode of Parks & Rec, but its not funny, because its true.

  • Mike M

    Run, Laura, run!

  • Mike M

    Ka-boom! Direct hit, Laura. Keep up the fire!

  • ConcernedRAMember

    The point here is more one of expectations. I did not expect that my home address along would be sent to someone (for who knows what purpose) simply because I chose to vote in the RA elections. The article doesn’t say that they provide a full list of members and weather or not they voted, it says that they gave the address of those who voted.

    I just feel this is wrong. Doesn’t anyone else?

  • secret stuff

    i am more concerned about the eligible voters that did NOT vote. Will there be consequences?

  • John Farrell

    The name and address of voters and whether they have voted is available for all national, state & local elections. There’s nothing unusual about Mr. Flashman’s request nor in RA complying with that request.

    It was extremely frustrating, when I ran for the RA Board, to know that 9 of 10 homes I visited would not be voting.

    Given the very limited time for campaigning in an RA vote, enabling candidates to concentrate their efforts on those who have voted in the past is being respectful of the time of the volunteers who offer to serve.

    • ReasonedReader

      Mr. Farrell,
      Mr. Flashman isn’t running for the Board. The RA Board isn’t a national, state or county elected body, It is an home owner’s association.

      To focus on the likely voters only serves to further disenfranchise voters, quite the opposite of Mr. Flashman’s stated goal. Lets not try to put lipstick on this pig. It’s a manipulation of rules which says that the information is confidential.

      • John Farrell

        It may come as a surprise to know that most political scientist who study local government have recognized HOAs as a new form of local government for about 20-30+ years.

        No one is disenfranchising RA voters. Every RA member gets their ballot & the brochure with the candidates statements.

        • John Lovaas

          Factual and well said, John

        • Mike M

          And all the candidates are the same. Get it?

  • M Jay

    I also have come to believe that RA has outlived its usefulness as a glorified homeowners association (they take offense to this characterization and say its a “community association). I will vote for anyone running on a platform of abolishing the RA and seeking to roll the function of local government into the county.

  • Greg

    Move, Laura, move!

  • east297

    Let’s next publish the salaries of the RA employees. I as a HO paying RA dues would be interested in that information!

  • Linda Ascher Singer

    See how you can boost the number of Small Tax District 5 voting for the Reston Community Board.

  • BBurns

    We had several solid candidates in the last election who were not developers, not developer cronies/real estate agents, not status quo, and care about Reston and the natural environment. But if people don’t vote for them, they get what they got.

  • BBurns

    For those unhappy with the current board, saying it’s the same ol’ same ol’, we had several solid candidates in the last election who were not developers, not developer cronies/real estate agents, and who care deeply about Reston – including the natural environment, unlike most of the present board. But if people don’t vote, you get the status quo. So is that shame on the board or shame on the non-voters.

    • Mike M

      Burnsy, you miss the point. The range of candidates is very narrow. They all pretty much want to buy new stuff and spend money. They seem to be people who don’t have enough to do.

  • The Hammer

    For heavens sake people, every for profit company on the planet knows everything about you and you’re worried about this kind of disclosure?

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