High Marks for Reston Drug Take-back — Officers collected more than 1,400 pounds of unused and expired medications on Saturday as part of the 21st annual national prescription drug take-back day. Reston Hospital Center collected 249 pounds, only behind the West Springfield district station, which collected 253 pounds. [FCPD]
Last Week for Early Voting — The last day for early voting is Friday. The county has 16 voting locations and every early voting site is open on weekdays from noon to 7 p.m., except the Fairfax County Government Center, where the hours are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]
Shadowood Pool Survey Results Coming — Reston Association’s Board of Directors and its parks and recreation advisory committee will hold a joint meeting tomorrow to discuss the results of a community survey on the future of Shadowood pool. The meeting begins online via Zoom at 6:30 p.m. [RA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Herndon Elementary School is slated for major renovations more than 30 years after the building was last renovated.
As part of a school bond referendum on the ballot this year, the elementary school could receive $4 million to fund the planning and design of the project. Contingent on the approval of the school bond referendum, planning, and design of the project would start in the spring of next year.
Construction is tentatively scheduled for 2024, pending the results of the bond referendum in 2023, according to a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Public School System.
Each bond cycle, the school system selects projects based on its Capital Improvement Program. The fiscal year 2022-2026 program focuses on capital projects, including new school construction, capacity enhancement, and renovations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic did not impact the already established and approved projects,” FCPS wrote in a statement to Reston Now.
Herndon ES first opened in 1961. Its capacity was boosted in 2007, but the school still has 10 modular classrooms and four temporary classrooms.
Fairfax County voters will vote on the bond request while voting for state governor, House of Delegates’ candidates and other statewide races.
This year, $360 million is requested for FCPS to renovate 14 schools and acquire a $13.5 million site for a new high school in the western part of the county. Other schools with funding allocated for planning and design include Dranesville ES, Centreville High School, and Armstrong ES.
Early voting began on Sept. 17 and the general election will take place on Nov. 2. The voter registration deadline is Oct. 12.
Senior Movie Day Returns — Reston Association’s senior movie day returns to Bow Tie Cinema in Reston Town Center today. Doors open at 9:15 a.m. and the movie — Queen Bees — begins at 10 a.m. The event began in 1994 and was paused roughly 18 months ago due to the pandemic. [Reston Today]
Police Chief Issues Alert After Overdoses — The Fairfax County Police Department’s police chief alerted the community yesterday after six people overdosed in one morning in Falls Church. All six adults ranged from 23 to 35 years of age. [Fairfax County Police Department]
County Community Transmission Still High — COVID-19 transmission in the county is still high, although more than 62 percent of the county’s population is fully vaccinated. The county’s health department offered an update to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week. [Fairfax County Government]
An Update on Early Voting — So far, more than 2,600 people have voted in person so far during the first three days of early voting. Three voting sites are open during weekdays in the county. [Fairfax County Government]
Summer is in full swing, and that means Reston Community Center is getting ready to welcome a new slate of candidates for its Board of Governors.
RCC announced yesterday (Monday) that it is now seeking candidates for its annual preference poll, which will kick off voting on Sept. 10 to fill three positions.
The nine-member Board of Governors determines RCC’s program and budget priorities, shapes policy, and represents the center at social, recreational, and cultural events in the community. Board members serve three-year terms and must be residents of Small District 5 who are at least 18 years old.
The filing period will open on Aug. 1.
Statement of candidacy forms will be available online and in-person at RCC’s Hunters Woods and Lake Anne facilities. Candidates must submit a form by 5 p.m. on Aug. 15 to get their name on the preference poll ballot.
All residents and businesses in Small District 5 can vote in the poll starting Sept. 10 until 5 p.m. on Oct. 1, though mail-in ballots can only be counted if they are received by 5 p.m. on Sept. 30. Voters also have the option to cast their ballot online or in-person.
RCC Hunters Woods (2310 Colts Neck Road) will host a candidate forum on Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. The event will also be broadcast on RCC’s Facebook Live feed.
Photo via Reston Community Center/Facebook
Virginia State of Emergency Ends Tonight — The public health emergency that Virginia has had in place since March 2020 due to COVID-19 is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. today (Wednesday). Gov. Ralph Northam’s office has said the order will not be renewed, but ambiguities about mask-wearing could be addressed in a General Assembly special session scheduled for Aug. 2. [WTOP]
Northam Signs Voting Access Legislation — Virginia’s governor formally signed several bills on Monday (June 28) intended to make it easier for people to vote. Changes include allowing localities to open polling places on Sundays during early voting, requiring localities to provide drop-off locations for absentee ballots, and enabling first-time voters to register for an absentee ballot by mail. [WTOP]
Public Input Sought on Regional Housing Plan — Fairfax County is participating in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ effort to develop a Regional Housing Equity Plan to identify and address racial disparities in housing. COG will host three workshops in July to discuss the history of race and housing and get community perspectives on the issue. [Fairfax County Housing and Community Development]
Sorrento Leasing Tours Delayed — The 306-unit apartment building at 1925 Roland Clarke Place in Reston will not open for leasing tours on July 1 as previously expected. Sorrento Senior Business Manager Curtis Schaeffer tells Reston Now that the date has been pushed back, likely to mid-to-late July, as some work still needs to be done, including the installation of furniture, before the leasing team moves into the building. [Sorrento]
(Updated at 9:05 a.m. on 6/11/21) Yesterday’s Democratic primary for the 86th House District proved to be, by percentage points, one of the closest races in the entire Commonwealth.
When all the votes were tallied, including absentee ballots, challenger Irene Shin had beaten the incumbent Ibraheem Samirah by only 230 votes, or 3.48 percentage points. Shin is now set to face Republican and high school history teacher Julie Perry in November’s general election.
In Fairfax County, which shares the district with a small portion of Loudoun County, the result was even tighter with Shin winning by fewer than 200 votes and 3.22 percentage points, according to the county office of elections’ unofficial returns.
Samirah’s ascension to the General Assembly in 2019 was part of a blue wave that solidified Virginia’s political transformation from reliably conservative to left-leaning. He conceded the primary via social media at 11:15 p.m. yesterday, saying that it was an honor to represent the 86th District and how proud he was of his campaign.
To the voters: We didn’t get the election result we wanted. I am still immensely proud of the campaign we ran. We stayed positive, highlighted our accomplishments and pushed healthcare as a human right, housing for all, and the need for a healthy democracy.
— Del. Ibraheem Samirah (@IbraheemSamirah) June 9, 2021
Shin declared victory via social media shortly thereafter, stating that “we made history tonight,” while thanking supporters and everyone who had endorsed her campaign.
We made history tonight! I am so grateful to be the Democratic nominee for Virginia’s 86th District. Thank you for everyone who had faith in me and supported me in this campaign.
— irene shin (@ireneshintweets) June 9, 2021
In a letter that also went out to supporters last night, Shin wrote that the victory left her “completely overwhelmed.”
“Entering this race was not an easy decision. I knew that challenging an incumbent in a Delegate race would be difficult,” she wrote. “Together, we knocked over 12,000 doors and made tens of thousands of phone calls. We built a grassroots movement with support from across the district. From Reston to Herndon to Chantilly, we ran the whole district.”
Neither Samirah nor Shin thanked the other candidate.
Samirah was one of five incumbent candidates to lose last night, a record dating back to 2001.
First elected in February 2019, Samirah gained some level of fame later that year for disrupting a Trump speech in Jamestown by yelling, “Mr. President, you can’t send us back, Virginia is our home!”
While he found some support for touting progressive policies, his occasionally confrontational approach ruffled some feathers, and a number of prominent Virginia Democrats supported Shin in this election, including state Sens. Jennifer Boysko and Janet Howell as well as Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem.
“I look forward to working at my dental practice in Reston, spending time with family, and finding ways to unify the progressive movement in Northern Virginia,” Samirah told Reston Now by email.
Next door, in the 36th House District that encompasses Reston, Del. Ken Plum — the incumbent and the longest-serving member of the Virginia House of Delegates — won a decisive victory in the primary over challenger Mary Barthelson with more than 77% of the vote. Read More
(Updated at 11:10 p.m.) Del. Ken Plum easily defeated his first primary opponent in more than two decades today (Tuesday), earning 75% of the vote, according to the Virginia Department of Elections’ unofficial results.
Plum has served as delegate for Virginia’s 34th House District, which encompasses Reston, since 1982, but he faced a rare Democratic challenger this year in data analyst and political newcomer Mary Barthelson, who announced her candidacy in March.
Plum will now face his first Republican challenger since 2011 in November’s general election, when he will vie for the seat with veteran and security consultant Matt Lang.
Herndon voters got a more competitive primary, as challenger Irene Shin eked out a victory in the 86th House District race over incumbent Del. Ibraheem Samirah, who was seeking his second full term in office.
After Fairfax County took a while to count absentee ballots, all 17 precincts were finally reported just after 11 a.m. Shin received 3,415 votes — or 51.7% — while Samirah got 3,185, or 48.3%, making the race the closest of the night that resulted in an incumbent defeat.
In the statewide races, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe handily won the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination, receiving more than 60% of the votes cast — roughly three times as many votes as his nearest competitor, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, who was seeking to become Virginia’s first Black, female governor.
Carroll Foy received about 20% of the vote, followed in descending order by state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and Del. Lee Carter, who also lost his seat representing the 50th House District.
McAuliffe will compete in November’s general election against businessman Glenn Youngkin, who won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in an “unassembled” convention in May.
The Democratic ticket will be completed by Del. Hala Ayala (D-51st District), who beat six other candidates to snag the lieutenant governor nomination, and Attorney General Mark Herring, who bested challenger Jay Jones as he seeks a third consecutive term in the position.
The Republican Party nominated former Del. Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor and Virginia Beach Del. Jason Miyares for attorney general.
In its unofficial returns, the Fairfax County Office of Elections reported a voter turnout of 11.1%, a relatively low rate that’s not especially unusual for an off-year primary. The 2017 Democratic primary, the last year with a gubernatorial race on the ballot, saw a 13.4% turnout.
According to the county, 21,493 voters — 2.9% of the electorate — cast absentee ballots either by mail or in-person, while 60,999 people went to the polls on the day of the primary. In comparison, the 2017 Democratic primary saw just 7,105 absentee voters compared to 86,931 primary day voters.
Primary Voter Turnout Expected to Follow Pre-Pandemic Trends — “While tens of thousands of Virginians already voted early ahead of the primary election on Tuesday, the turnout for people casting ballots in person is expected to look more like it did before the coronavirus pandemic. ‘I suspect that the bulk of the voters will be voting tomorrow as they traditionally have,’ said Fairfax County General Registrar Scott Konopasek. [WTOP]
Public Housing Application Period Opens — “The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) is now accepting new tenant applications for selection to the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program waitlist. The RAD program, formerly known simply as “public housing,” provides 1,060 units of publicly owned housing to low-income households…Applications must be completed online between 8 a.m. on June 7 and 11:59 p.m. on June 13.” [Fairfax County Government]
Virginia Sees Overall Drop in Violent Crime — “Virginia saw a slight decrease in violent crime in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the state police’s annual crime report. The number of homicides in the state, however, increased by 23.4 percent. Across the state, there were 15,713 violent crimes reported in 2020 compared to 16,018 violent crimes in 2019, a 1.9 percent drop.” [Patch]
Reston Museum to Revisit Encounter with Former First Lady — “Join the Reston Historic Trust & Museum for a special all-virtual program on July 13, 2021 from 6-8 p.m. commemorating Lady Bird Johnson’s 1967 visit to Reston. Special guest Julia Sweig, author of Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight, will provide insight into Lady Bird Johnson and her involvement in urban planning projects, democratic access to nature and more.” [Reston Historic Trust and Museum]
Fairfax County Fire Department Awarded — Fairfax County Fire Chief John Butler is a co-recipient of the Excellence in Virginia Fire Services Award from the 2020 Governor’s Fire Service Awards for helping launch a Field Available Component Transfusion Response (FACT R) program, which uses 9-1-1 resources to deliver blood transfusions to trapped individuals. A county firefighter was also named Career Firefighter of the Year. [FCFRD]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The Virginia Democratic Party is holding a primary tomorrow (Tuesday), and the ballot will feature some crowded races, including statewide contests for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.
The Republican Party chose to replace its primary this year with a convention in May to select statewide candidates. Some local races are also occurring in the state.
About 7,300 people in Fairfax County have voted early in person, and 50% of the vote-by-mail ballots requested by voters have been turned in so far, county spokesman Brian Worthy said in an email on Friday (June 4).
Here’s what to know:
Casting Your Ballot
Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you’re in line by 7 p.m., you will still be able to vote. You generally need an ID to vote, but alternative options are available, which includes signing a statement that says you are who you say you are. You can find your polling place online.
For absentee ballots, the deadline to hand deliver them is 7 p.m. Tuesday. They can be dropped off at polling sites, and other options are available. By mail, absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before June 8 and also received in the county elections office by noon on Friday (June 11).
While the lieutenant governor race remains crowded, candidate Elizabeth Guzman withdrew from to focus on getting re-elected as a delegate for the 31st House District, which serves parts of Fauquier and Prince William counties. However, her name will still be on the ballot.
For the gubernatorial race, Virginia’s constitution bars governors from running for consecutive terms, preventing Gov. Ralph Northam from seeking re-election this year but opening the door for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
- Terry R. McAuliffe
- Jennifer L. McClellan
- Jennifer D. Carroll Foy
- Lee J. Carter
- Justin E. Fairfax (current lieutenant governor)
- Hala S. Ayala
- S. “Sam” Rasoul
- Andria P. McClellan
- Elizabeth R. Guzman
- Sean A. Perryman
- Mark H. Levine
- Xavier JaMar Warren
House of Delegates — 36th District (Reston)
House of Delegates — 86th District (Herndon)
Editor’s note: Reston Now will be taking Memorial Day weekend off starting tomorrow (Friday). Except in the case of breaking news, publishing will resume on Tuesday (June 1).
More Early Voting Sites to Open Saturday — Fairfax County will add 13 more early voting sites for the June 8 Democratic primary on Saturday (May 29), bringing the total number of locations up to 16. In the Reston/Herndon area, the Herndon Fortnightly and Great Falls libraries will join the North County Governmental Center, which has hosted early voting since April 24. [Fairfax County Government]
Couple Killed in Springfield Shooting — “A husband and wife are dead following a shooting in a residential area of Springfield, Virginia, on Wednesday morning, according to police. Police Chief Kevin Davis said authorities believe the ‘shooter or shooters’ are ‘known to a relative of our two victims.'” [WTOP]
Fairfax County Considers Renaming Two Highways — “A list of possible new names for Lee Highway (Route 29) and Lee-Jackson Memorial Highway (Route 50) could be ready as soon as this December. On July 13, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors could approve about 25 members for a task force to examine the possibility of renaming the highways and appoint the group’s chair.” [Tysons Reporter]
Herndon Businesses Burglarized — The Herndon Police Department is investigating multiple commercial burglaries where individuals smashed businesses’ front doors and windows with rocks and stole cash and cash registers. The first incident occurred overnight between May 17 and May 18 in the 600 block of Carlisle Drive, and the second happened shortly after 1 a.m. on May 18 in the 300 block of Elden Street. [HPD]
Herndon to Hold Memorial Day Observance — The Town of Herndon will observe Memorial Day on Monday (May 31) at Chestnut Grove Cemetery on Dranesville Road with an Avenue of Flags that will be erected from dawn until dusk. The holiday takes place on the final Monday of every May as “a day to remember all American lives lost during military service.” [Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Virginia’s lieutenant governor race is coming to Reston.
The nonpartisan community action group #RestonStrong is hosting a forum for the candidates running to succeed current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who is vying to become governor, at Lake Anne Washington Plaza on Saturday (May 22) at 11 a.m.
#RestonStrong founder Sarah Selvaraj D’Souza says the group wanted to host the forum to help Reston residents learn how the lieutenant governor candidates address the issues they care about.
“The event is to educate and encourage citizen participation in the upcoming state election on matters impacting Restonians,” she told Reston Now.
Four candidates for lieutenant governor have confirmed their attendance at Saturday’s forum: former Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, Del. Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge), Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria), and Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke).
All lieutenant governor candidates were invited, and D’Souza says more may accept the invitation by Saturday.
The other contenders are Norfolk City Councilmember Andria McClellan (D), Arlington businessman Xavier Warren (D), independent Bobby Junes, and former state delegate and Marine veteran Winsome Sears, who clinched the Republican Party’s nomination for the position on May 11 after a convention.
The event will be held at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern with overflow seating at Café Montmartre. D’Souza says #RestonStrong chose those two local, minority-owned businesses as the venues to support them as they try to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic.
For those unable to attend in person, the forum will stream live on #RestonStrong’s website, Facebook, and Instagram, along with the Lake Anne Washington Plaza Facebook. The event will proceed rain or shine. To make reservations at Kalypso’s Sports Tavern, email [email protected] or call 703-707-0660.
When early voting began at the North County Government Center in Reston on Saturday (April 24), the crowd of electioneers assembled outside the building dwarfed the number of people casting their ballots inside the building.
The absence of lines contrasted sharply with the 2020 general election, when Fairfax County sometimes saw hour-long waits at early voting sites. This time, the biggest hold-up was the few extra seconds election volunteers needed to sort through 16 different ballots and match them with the right voters.
While not surprised by the relatively muted turnout for the first days of early voting for the June 8 Democratic primary, which started on April 23 at the Fairfax County Government Center before expanding to two satellite locations a day later, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says it’s too soon to make any confident projections about what early voting will look like in the future.
“Going through a couple of election cycles, I think we need to do that before we can come to any long-term conclusions about how early voting is best done, how to staff it, what resources are necessary,” he said.
Even with a crowded gubernatorial contest on the ballot, the 2021 election cycle likely won’t match the high turnout for last year’s general election, which was buoyed by an especially heated presidential race, but there is already evidence that the Virginia’s new laws permanently expanding the accessibility of absentee voting are paying off.
According to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, 63,508 voters have requested mail ballots, and 709 people have voted in person, as of April 24. In comparison, there were just 35,390 early voters in the 2017 primaries, the last time that Virginia had a governor’s race, and that includes 8,815 people who requested mail ballots but never returned them.
Fairfax County has gotten 11,222 mail ballot requests and 68 in-person voters. In 2017, 3,109 people voted early in person, and 1,919 people voted by mail.
Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy attributes this uptick to recent legislative changes made by the Virginia General Assembly, particularly the introduction of no-excuse absentee voting that took effect last year.
“Since the last gubernatorial election, voting by mail has become easier in Virginia,” Worthy said. “Not only can any registered voter do so without needing a reason as was required in the past, but also the law now makes it easy to vote by mail permanently. As a result, the Office of Elections expects to see an increase in voting by mail over time as has happened in other states that have implemented similar laws.”
Legislators took further action to make early voting more accessible during a special session in March, including requiring localities to offer ballot drop-off boxes, permitting absentee voting on Sundays, and suspending witness signature requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, though those laws don’t take effect until July 1.
Early voting is also “way up” in Falls Church City compared to the last gubernatorial primary, according to Director of Elections and General Registrar David Bjerke.
Bjerke told Reston Now on Friday (April 23) that the city had sent out 315 ballots so far, including 176 mail ballots and 139 email ballots to overseas voters, and three people showed up to vote in person that day. The 2017 primary saw just 240 early voters total, even though the Democratic and Republican parties both held elections that summer.
“It’s a huge increase,” Bjerke said. Read More
Early Voting Begins Today — At 9 a.m., Fairfax County voters can start casting their ballots for the June 8 Democratic primary. Early voting has expanded from previous years, with all registered voters now allowed to participate and the county immediately offering three locations with Saturday hours. [Fairfax County Government]
Massage Therapist Arrested for Sexual Battery in Herndon — “Herndon Police arrested a massage therapist Wednesday in connection with a sexual battery incident that occurred at a business in the 400 block of Carlisle Drive, according to a post on the department’s official Facebook page. Police charged Zachary Nelson Guzman-Orellana, 39, of Leesburg, with aggravated sexual battery by a therapist.” [Patch]
Herndon Farmers Market Opens Amid Blustery Weather — “A handful of vendors bundled up early Thursday morning and set up their tables, signaling the return of the Herndon Farmers Market to Lynn Street in old town for the 2021 season. It was cold and windy, but everyone seemed happy to be back.” [Patch]
Reston Association Job Fair Coming Tomorrow — “Join us this Saturday at the Reston Aquatics Job Fair! From 11 AM-2 PM, come to Ridge Heights Pool and chat with current staff, play games, and win prizes. Bring your friends and spread the word! Social distancing and masks will be required.” [RA/Twitter]
Reston CEO to Host Entrepreneurship Workshop — Reston Limousine Service President and CEO Kristina Bouweiri will lead the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s next “Entrepreneurship 101: Starting a Business in Fairfax County” webinar on May 4. Held every other month, the virtual workshops feature panels of small business experts on how to start a business. [FCEDA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Later this week, Fairfax County will kick off voting for its second pandemic primary, and the county officials running the election are applying a few lessons from the last year of early and mail-in voting.
Early voting for the Democratic primary is scheduled to start this Friday (April 23) and will be open to all voters registered in the county.
Voters in last year’s election faced long lines as they waited to turn in their ballots early, but Fairfax County General Registrar and Director of Elections Gary Scott, who is retiring from the position this year, said that scenario is unlikely in this year’s elections.
“What we’re doing is trying to incorporate some of the things we did observe,” Scott said. “There are lessons learned from the general election that don’t necessarily translate well to a primary election. We’re looking at a different electorate and a different level of turnout. But we’re opening more than one location early.”
Scott says that, in addition to the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway), the county will open the North County Government Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) and the Mount Vernon Government Center (2511 Parkers Lane) for early voting on Saturday, April 24.
For the last week of the primary, the county will open an additional 13 early voting sites starting on May 29. Sites in the Reston/Herndon area include the Great Falls and Herndon Fortnightly libraries.
“For the last week, we will have a total of 16 locations where people will vote,” Scott said. “And we’ve extended hours from 4:30 p.m. to, now, 7 p.m. We wanted to extend further after working hours.”
Scott says it can be difficult to estimate how many voters there will be.
The last gubernatorial primary in 2017 had a 13% turnout, but that year had both a Republican and Democrat primary. This year, it’s Democrat-only, but Scott says his office is still preparing for a 40% turnout, even if that is viewed as extremely unlikely.
“Ordering paper ballots is relatively cheap after a certain point, and I’d rather have 10,000 ballots too many than 10,000 ballots too few,” he said.
Those voting in person should not submit an application to receive a ballot by mail, though anyone who requests a mail ballot can still surrender it when they check in if they decide to vote in-person instead.
“If you submit an application, you’re going to be sent a ballot by mail, and you’d have to return that ballot to back it out in order to vote in person,” Scott explained.
There will be drop boxes around the county after Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law on March 31 making permanent a measure that was adopted temporarily last year. Drop boxes will be available at all early voting sites and polling places for those who want to drop off their ballot, according to Scott.
The deadline to register to vote in Fairfax County is May 19 — 22 days prior to the election. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 8. Virginia is an open-primary state, so the primary is open to all voters.
“There are no Republican races in Fairfax County, so if you’re showing up to vote for republican candidates…there aren’t any,” Scott said. “For top of ticket, they chose convention, and some House of Delegates races had only one qualified candidate for primary.”
In addition to the statewide governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general races, voters in six districts have House of Delegates races on the primary ballot:
“We would encourage people, before they go out to vote, to review sample ballots we will have posted on our website,” Scott said. “So, if they go to vote, they’re prepared, because not everyone in the county is going to see the same ballot.”
This 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.
As we probably learned and as we teach our children, voting is the most important of civic duties. By choosing our leaders at election time and by deciding questions on referenda, we set the direction for our communities, states, and nation. Voting is a way to express our values and beliefs.
In one of the contradictions that strain the legitimacy of what we teach vs. what we do is to teach our children, proclaim in civic pronouncements and require for Scouting citizenship merit badges an acknowledgement of the importance of voting while at the same time making it difficult and sometimes impossible for some people to vote.
During the colonial period and early years of the state of Virginia, only white land-owners could vote. The Reconstruction era after the Civil War brought Black men into the electorate, but in a matter of decades that free access to voting was cut off by white supremacists who reasserted their power. An avowed purpose of writing a new constitution in 1902 was to disenfranchise Black men. It was successful in that the voting rolls were cut in half as most Blacks and poor whites were not able to make their way through the maze of requirements that one had to meet in order to vote. A blank sheet registration system and a $1.50 poll tax to be paid three years in a row at least six months before an election kept many from voting. White people in the upper crust of local society made it through these hurdles as the voting registrar who was part of the governing machine would provide them assistance while everyone else floundered at trying to get through the process.
Regardless of their race, women in this country have been able to vote for just over a hundred years, and that right came after incredible struggle. The Civil Rights era and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened up the electoral process for many Black people. Even now there are debates in the states about ways that access to the polls can be limited.
The Virginia General Assembly has put the Commonwealth on the path to supporting citizens carrying out their civic duty with several of the most progressive voting laws in the country. A headline in the New York Times last week proclaimed that “Virginia, the Old Confederacy’s Heart, Becomes a Voting Rights Bastion.” Over a fourteen-month period and two legislative sessions the General Assembly has passed and the Governor has signed bills to repeal a voter ID law, enact a 45-day no-excuse absentee voting period that permits early voting, made Election Day a holiday, and established a system for automatic voter registration for anyone who receives a Virginia driver’s license. The Virginia Voting Rights Act follows some of the provisions of the earlier federal law but applies to localities in the state to ensure that voting remains accessible.
In Virginia we will continue to say that voting is one of the most important of our civic duties, and now we will have a legal structure that demonstrates we believe it!