Opinion: Commentary: Voting as a Responsibility

Opinion: Commentary: Voting as a Responsibility

Voting is a right, a privilege, and a responsibility. Our country is founded on the democratic principle that every citizen should have a say in who represents them. In 20 days or so there is an important midterm election. Historically, the midterms have far lower voter turnout than Presidential elections. The 2014 midterm election had the lowest voter turnout in 72 years! Only 36.3 percent of citizens voted nationwide and we weren’t much better in Virginia where turnout was only 36.7 percent. This means that in the last midterm 63.3 percent of our fellow Virginians did not exercise their constitutional right to vote. We must do better this year and ensure that many more Virginians get to the polls.

This year, election day is on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you are unsure of where you go to vote please visit the Virginia Department of Elections website https://www.elections.virginia.gov to confirm your polling location. Before you leave for your polling location there are a few things you need to do. First, bring a valid Virginia I.D. A drivers license, veterans I.D. card, passport or a valid college or university photo I.D are all acceptable. To view the full list of acceptable IDs please visit the Virginia Department of Elections website. Next, make sure you know what offices are up for election and who the candidates are, and whether there are any ballot initiatives. This year, in Virginia, you are voting for your U.S. Senate and House of Representatives member, and two amendments to the Virginia Constitution.

Remember to take some time to research the candidates and the constitutional amendments on the ballot. The amendments often take voters by surprise and can be difficult to understand. The first amendment changes the code of Virginia to allow the surviving spouse of a military member who had a military connected disability to continue receiving a real property tax exemption if they decide to move. Currently, if the surviving spouse changes primary residences they lose the exemption. This amendment is a fair way to ensure that the family members of our veterans receive the benefits they deserve. The second amendment would allow localities the flexibility to provide a partial tax exemption for property that is subject to recurrent flooding if flooding resiliency improvements have been made on the property. In plain English, this is an attempt to incentivize people to make their homes as flood resistant as possible. I would recommend you vote yes to each of these amendments. Also, I recommend you vote for our incumbent U.S. senator and House member, Tim Kaine and Don Beyer (here in the 8th district), who are both well respected and have a strong legacy of public service. If you don’t have time to research the candidates and amendments beforehand there should be individuals from both the Democratic and Republican party outside of the polling location handing out sample ballots and other literature about each of the candidates. Finally, if for some reason a poll worker says you are not registered to vote, or you have forgotten your I.D. and there is not enough time to go home and retrieve it, make sure you ask to fill out a provisional ballot.

Unfortunately, for many, it can be tough to get to the polls on election day between work, traffic, and other responsibilities. It can be especially difficult for our senior citizens to get to the polls on election day if bad weather brings dangerous ice and snow. This is why I introduced HB 2275 in the General Assembly in 2017 to enact “no question absentee voting” for everyone over the age of 65. The bill was voted down, even after I amended it to age 85 and up, but I am hopeful it will be enacted in the near future, and I may introduce it again next legislative session. Furthermore, I am introducing a bill to make election day a state holiday so we make it as easy as possible for everyone to vote and not intrude upon open schools where many polls are located. You can vote “absentee” if you are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day. But, you must meet one of the 20 valid reasons to be able to do so. A few examples are if you are pregnant, have business outside of the county or are working more than 11 hours on Election Day. To view the full list visit the Virginia Department of Elections website. In Virginia, you can vote “absentee” in person or by mail. If you wish to vote absentee in person you can do so at the Mount Vernon Government Center located at 2511 Parkers Lane from 3-7 p.m. Monday - Friday and from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday up until Nov. 3. If you prefer to vote absentee by mail you must request your ballot at least 7 days prior to the election. Your ballot must be received by the time polls close on Election day at 7 p.m.

Ensuring everyone has the opportunity to vote is the foundation of our Democracy. One of the most important ways to secure that foundation is to make sure the next generation understands the importance of voting from a young age. On Monday evening, I spoke to Boy Scouts Troop 888 about the importance of fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to vote from the moment they turn 18. The Scouts are active in our community and eager to participate and can’t wait until they are old enough to vote.

Please make sure you take the time to vote this year and view the Department of Elections website https://www.elections.virginia.gov as your one-stop shop to answer any questions. If you still have any concerns please reach out to my office at DelPKrizek@house.virginia.gov. It is my honor and privilege to serve you in the 44th District.