Some people continue to assert, either with their words or by simply abstaining, that voting just doesn’t matter. Here in Virginia, nearly every day we prove that is incorrect.
All of Virginia’s elected representatives who are elected by the entire state are of the same political party. They are all Democrats: Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Attorney General Mark Herring and Virginia’s two U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
None were elected by a landslide but the trend is undeniable; the results are tangible.
Herring won his race over Mark D. Obenshain (R) by fewer than 200 votes out of more than 2.2 million votes cast. But that slimmest of margins has cleared the way for a new approach on many issues, especially after the previous four years of Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.
In January, Herring announced his office would support legal arguments that Virginia’s ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. Judge Arenda Wright Allen on Valentine’s Day overturned that ban, and on Tuesday, May 13, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond begins the process that should result in same sex couples being able to marry in Virginia.
In April, Herring advised that Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States under the Federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program qualify for in-state tuition, provided they meet Virginia's domicile requirements.
This week, Gov. McAuliffe began administrative processes to blunt the effects of restrictive regulations placed on women’s health centers that provide abortion, that would essentially have forced most to close by applying onerous standards intended for hospitals.
"I am concerned that the extreme and punitive regulations adopted last year jeopardize the ability of most women's health centers to keep their doors open and place in jeopardy the health and reproductive rights of Virginia women," McAuliffe said. He also began the process of changing the makeup of the Board of Health via appointments, including returning James Edmondson of McLean to the board.
In the meantime, the gerrymandering of district lines for members of the General Assembly maintains the conservative, Republican super majority there. Those members of the House of Delegates in particular seem prepared to cut off their noses to spite their faces, to do almost anything to deny health care to more than 200,000 very poor Virginians who could be covered by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Not only would this be fully covered by Federal funds for the first years and covered 90 percent thereafter, but it would bring enormous economic benefits to Virginia. McAuliffe is correct to look for ways to expand Medicaid administratively, bypassing the General Assembly. It has been done elsewhere.
"This is not just a health issue — it's an economic issue," McAuliffe said yesterday in announcing review of the regulations on women’s health clinics, but the statement applies also to expanding health care in Virginia. "In order to grow and diversify our economy, Virginia needs to be open and welcoming to all."