The Virginia General Assembly began its 60-day 2016 session on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Here in Northern Virginia, residents are often far more cognizant of national politics and government than state and local government. But there are several reasons why, especially in Virginia, especially if you live in Northern Virginia, you should pay attention.
In Virginia, localities have only the power expressly given by the General Assembly. So living in Fairfax or Arlington or Alexandria, your local governments and regulations are often not able to reflect the values and preferences of residents.
For example, for Fairfax County to have any say about whether a gun store can operate adjacent to a school, where students can see customers coming and going with weapons, the General Assembly would have to vote to give the county that authority. While this has been a hot topic here, and several legislators have introduced “authorizing legislation,” it would be remarkable if the currently constituted assembly would allow this to go forward.
Living in the wealthiest areas of the Commonwealth also raises concerns. Localities have very limited options for raising revenue. The revenue that is actually based on someone’s ability to pay, income taxes, is only collected by the state; localities cannot claim any portion of income tax. Of course Northern Virginia is the economic engine of the state, and so it makes sense that a significant portion of the state budget would be funded with Northern Virginia dollars. But it is unfair that the General Assembly limits localities ability to access other revenue choices to fund local necessities like schools.
There are dozens of other examples, and most are complicated. But local officials are elected, and if local government takes action not supported by local voters, they will be voted out.
Because of gerrymandering of districts in both the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate, the makeup of the General Assembly is far more conservative than the Commonwealth overall, as evidenced by Democrats elected to all statewide offices. This makes the control from Richmond all the more egregious.
Every resident is represented by one delegate and one senator in the Virginia General Assembly. You can visit the General Assembly website to find out who represents you, for contact information, for session livestreaming and more.
Vote Now for Presidential Primary
Who will be the next President of the United States also matters.
In order to vote in either of Virginia’s presidential primaries on March 1, voters must be registered by Feb. 8. Voting “absentee in person” (early voting available for myriad reasons, including anyone who will commute to work on Election Day) is already underway.
In Virginia, voters do not register by party. In the primaries for President, you can vote either the Democrat or Republican ballot, but not both. If you choose to vote the Republican ballot, you will be required to sign the following statement first:
Section 24.2-545 of the Code of Virginia allows the political party holding a primary to determine requirements for voting in the primary. The Republican Party of Virginia has determined that the following statement shall be a requirement of your participation. STATEMENT: My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.
For More Election Information:
State Board of Elections, 804-864-8901 Toll Free: 800-552-9745 FAX: 804-371-0194
Fairfax County Board of Elections, 703-222-0776, http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/upcoming.htm
12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, Suite 232, Fairfax, 22035; FAX 703-324-2205; email email@example.com
For details on absentee voting in Fairfax County, see www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/absentee.htm.
City of Fairfax General Registrar, 703-385-7890, http://www.fairfaxva.gov/government/general-registrar
10455 Armstrong Street, Sisson House, Fairfax, 22030; FAX 703-591-8364; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Arlington Voter Registration and Elections
2100 Clarendon Blvd, Suite 320
Arlington, VA 22201
Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m., M-F
FAX (main): 703-228-3659
Fax (absentee applications): 703-228-3705
For details on absentee voting in Arlington, see vote.arlingtonva.us/absentee/.
Alexandria Voter Registration and Elections
132 North Royal Street, Suite 100
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
For details on absentee voting in the City of Alexandria, see www.alexandriava.gov/Elections.