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Friday Morning Notes

Absentee voting begins today — Voting begins today at the Fairfax County government center and ends on Oct. 13 at nine additional locations. Absentee votes can also be cast by mail. The ballots for Town of Herndon residents will include options for mayor and town council members. [Fairfax County Government]

How about some hairspray — Reston Community Players will kick off its 52nd season with the musical Hairspray. It opens on October 19 and runs through November 10 at Reston Community Center. [Reston Community Players]

Missing endangered man found — Patrick Brown, 74, an endangered man who went missing yesterday, was found and is safe. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Photo by Kit Allgaier

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Del. Ken Plum: Un-Gerrymandering Legislative Districts in Virginia

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

On August 30, I and my colleagues in the General Assembly will return to the State Capitol in Richmond at the request of Governor Ralph Northam to un-gerrymander eleven House of Delegates districts that have been found by a panel of federal judges to be unconstitutional. The court’s action was based on a finding that the districts as drawn violated the equal protection of the law afforded to everyone by the United States Constitution.

In the redistricting of 2011, the Republicans who had a majority in the House of Delegates packed African Americans in the Richmond-Hampton Roads regions into the eleven districts that have been found unconstitutional. From a partisan perspective the packing resulted in African Americans who historically vote Democratic to be limited in their influence over voting outcomes throughout the region. From a legal perspective African Americans were denied their constitutional protection from the gerrymandering that put them into fewer districts over which they might have an influence.

The requirement to un-gerrymander legislative districts in Virginia is not new. Most recently and earlier this year the congressional districts in the Richmond-Hampton Roads region were found to be unconstitutional. When the districts were redrawn Democrats won an additional congressional seat with an African American candidate.

Unraveling a partisan gerrymander is not easy. With the congressional districts, the courts had to redraw them because the General Assembly could not come to an agreement as to how it should be done. There is serious concern as to whether the General Assembly will be able to redraw the district lines for the House of Delegates or whether it will revert to the courts for correction. With any of these revisions there are likely to be winners and losers, and legislative bodies have not shown the ability to draw lines that will disadvantage a member(s) in re-election. With the congressional redistricting, for example, one member of Congress lost a seat to the African American candidate who ran in a newly redrawn district.

To correct the clear racial discrimination in the eleven districts that have been found to be unconstitutional, it will be necessary to redraw more than thirty district lines as currently constituted. As the redrawing takes place some voters will find themselves in new districts as will some incumbent legislators. The election outcomes are likely to be different as the racial bias of how the districts have been drawn is removed.

The courts have not taken up cases of gerrymandering when allegations of partisan discrimination are alleged. The courts are interested in issues of constitutional protections most often found when racial discrimination can be shown. Issues of removing partisanship from the redistricting process, as some have expressed it–to have the people choose their elected representatives instead of legislators choosing their constituents–have been resolved in other places by having an independent, nonpartisan commission draw the lines. I first introduced a bill to establish such a commission in Virginia in 1982 and have introduced such a bill many times.

The General Assembly must carry out its responsibility to undo the racially discriminating districts that currently exist. Additionally, it should take the next step to put an independent non-partisan commission in place.

File photo

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Candidates Sought for Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors

Reston Community Center has issued a call for candidates to run for seats on the Board of Governors, a nine-member body that oversees RCC.

Candidates for one of three open positions with three-year terms must complete candidacy filings by 5 p.m. on August 15 (Wednesday).

Each year, candidates are selected through a community preference poll with votes cast by residents and businesses located in Small District 5, a geographical area that broadly applies to Reston zip codes.

Online and mail-in balloting and walk-in voting will run from September 7 through September 29 until 5 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be received before 5 p.m. on September 27.

The Board of Governors establishes RCC policies, sets priorities for programs and makes decisions about the budget. The body was established by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, which will appoint board members based on votes cast.

Photo via Reston Community Center

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Chalk on the water — Unleash your creativity this weekend as Lake Anne Plaza’s ground becomes a canvas for amateur and professional artists alike. [Public Art Reston]

Stateside: June 12 — The primary elections in Virginia and Fairfax County are on Tuesday, June 12. All 243 precincts will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]

Happening nearby: motorized partitions — “Schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, will be allowed to use motorized panel doors again after a little boy died in a “tragic accident” at his elementary school. Wesley Lipicky was killed on May 18 after he was crushed between a motorized panel and a wall.” [NBC4]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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In Closely Watched Virginia Election, Votes in Reston Mirror Statewide Results

Democrat Ralph Northam clenched victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in the competitive race to become Virginia’s 73rd governor Tuesday — statewide results that echoed locally in a bellwether race watched around the nation as judgment on President Donald Trump.

Democrats swept statewide offices, including the lieutenant governor and attorney general. In the Hunter Mill District, Northam won in every precinct with 61 percent of all votes – slightly below the countywide average of 67 percent and above the statewide return of 54 percent. Northam took 30,201 of the 49,788 ballots cast while Gillespie grasped 45 percent of the vote. The tightest race was in the Colvin Precinct where Northam won by a 59 percent to 40 percent margin over Gillespie, who took 54 percent of the total vote statewide.

Democrat Justin Fairfax won over Republican state Sen. Jill Vogel in the race for lieutenant governor while Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring was reelected over Republican John Adams.

Overall, voters took to the polls in greater numbers this year. Turnout in the Hunter Mill District was just under 50 percent, roughly six percentage points below the statewide voter turnout of 56 percent.

The Flint Hill precinct reported the highest turnout at nearly 66 percent. The lowest turnout was reported at the McNair precinct where turnout rested at a mum 45 percent compared to the district-wide average of 60 percent.

Voters also passed a measure that would approve the sale of $315 million in bonds to fund school improvement projects throughout the county. The measure passed with 73 percent of the total vote. Locally, the funds would allow the county to move forward on renovations to one modular buildings; additions to three county high schools; renovations to 10 elementary schools, three middle schools, two high schools; and the construction of two new elementary schools.

Democrat Ken Plum, Reston’s current delegate, will also continue serving as the local delegate for the 36th district. Plum, who worked for roughly 20 years as a public school teacher an administrator prior to his role in politics, ran in an uncontested race.

To view complete election results, visit Fairfax County’s interactive map or view results online.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem.

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Under the Cover of Rain, Reston Residents Head to Polls in Statewide Election


Despite the downpour of rain on Tuesday, a steady stream of voters cast their votes at Armstrong Elementary School in Reston. As of 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 209,223 residents of Fairfax County voted in Virginia’s election.

The state is only of of two in the United States with statewide elections this year. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam are vying for governor in what is expected to be a narrow contest, according to The New York Times. Libertarian Cliff Hyra is also running.

In the last election in 2013, turnout rested at 46.8 percent. With a little more than four hours before polls close, turnout this year sits at 30.6 percent, according to the county.

A record number of absentee ballots were cast this year, according to Fairfax County officials. More than 41,000 Virginians participated in early voting, up by roughly 61 percent from voting in 2013. Absentee voting was up in every jurisdictions in Virginia, except three, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-profit organization that provides information about local politics.

There are more than 684,041 active registered voters in Fairfax County. Throughout the day, voters trickled in at various polling sites throughout Reston and Fairfax County. By 10 a.m., nearly 16 percent or roughly 109,000 of registered voters already casted their ballot.

All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are up for election. Fifty-five of those seats are contested.

Reston’s current Delegate, Democrat Ken Plum, is running without opposition in this election. Plum is currently serving his 36th year as the local Delegate for the 36th District, which includes Reston. Prior to his political appointment, he served for roughly 20 years as a public school teacher and administrator. Plum recently commented on his unopposed race for re-election in his weekly commentary.

Two candidates, Republican Jill Vogel and Justin Fairfax are running to replace Ralph Northam as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, a role which often presides over the State Senate, and has the power to break tie votes. The race for attorney general is between the current attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring, and his opponent, Republican John Adams.

The Board of Supervisors has asked residents to approve the sale of $315 million in bonds. If approved, the county has published a list of school improvement projects they would use the money to pay for.

The American Civil Liberties Union received multiple reports from Virginia voters who said that they received calls falsely saying their polling place had changed. The civil liberties organization advised voters to confirm polling locations at elections.virginia.gov and report any issues by calling the organization at 804-644-8080.

Polling stations are open through 7 p.m. Results can be viewed live at VPAP’s website or on the Fairfax County Government website.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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Reston Released Voter Information on 25K Households

"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.

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Fairfax County Voters Can Take New Machines For a Test Run

Fairfax County/Credit: Fairfax CountyThe Fairfax County Office of Elections is offering voters a chance to check out new voting machines to replace aging models.

The new machines will offer ease of use as well as accessibility for people with disabilities and for voters for whom English is not their primary language, said electoral board secretary Brian Schoeneman.

Want to go for a test drive? Here are two nearby opportunities on Friday Feb. 21:

  • Tysons Corner Center Mall, 2 to 4 p.m., Third floor food court
  • Reston Community Center Hunters Woods, 6:45 to 8:30 p.m., lobby.

No advance notice or reservations are necessary.

“We have some critical decisions to make this year on purchasing new voting machines for our citizens,” Schoeneman says. “This is a rare opportunity to provide voters with a chance to test drive different voting machines and give input on what voting equipment will provide them with the best and most secure voting experience.”

After long waits in the 2012 Presidential Election, the county assembled a bipartisan Election Process Improvement Commission.  The commission issued its report last March, finding fault with aging Direct Electronic Recording Devices (DRE) machines.

The commission recommended that the county go to one system throughout the county, preferably one with electronically scanned ballots with an integrated system fully accessible to voters with disabilities.

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