Opinion: Commentary: Make a Plan to Vote

Opinion: Commentary: Make a Plan to Vote

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, from the local level all the way to the national level. In just two short weeks, every voter will have the opportunity to vote in this year’s key local and state elections. Traditionally known as an “off-off-year election,” this election features many local races such as school board, Commonwealth’s Attorney, as well as state legislative races, but no presidential or statewide contest. This moniker, however, is misleading, as local and state races, especially this year where all 140 House and Senate seats will be on the ballot (including mine), are vitally important to the daily lives of Virginians, and voters should never sit this one out. While turnout historically hovers close to 30% in these elections, there are many things we can do to help increase turnout.

This year, election day falls on Tuesday, Nov. 5, and the polls will be open from 6am to 7pm. Before you leave for your polling location, there are a few things you should do. First, make sure to bring a valid Virginia photo ID. This can be a driver’s license, veteran’s I.D. card, passport or a valid Virginia college or university photo ID. To view the full list of acceptable IDs or where your polling place is located please visit https://www.elections.virginia.gov/.

Next, you should make sure you know which offices are up for election, who the candidates are, and whether there are any ballot initiatives. Taking the time to research candidates and the issues will help you feel confident and prepared while filling out your ballot. This year, in Virginia, you are voting for your State Senator and House of Delegates member, as well as school board representatives (one representing the magisterial district and three at-large county-wide members), County Supervisors, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Sheriff, and Soil and Water Conservation District members.

Here in Fairfax County, a school bond referendum will be on the ballot. I recommend that you vote yes on this referendum, as these funds will go towards the building and renovation of Fairfax County schools, including West Potomac High School and Hybla Valley Elementary School. These improvement projects are not financed through the school system’s operating funds but through bonds.

One thing that can significantly impact turnout is the difficulty in getting to the polls on election day between work, traffic, and other daily responsibilities. You may be eligible to vote “absentee” if you are unable to make it to the polls on Election Day. However, 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. I support the proposals to create “no excuse” absentee voting so that anyone can vote early without having to meet any eligibility requirements. In Virginia, you can vote absentee in person or by mail. If you wish to vote absentee in person you can do so at one of the satellite locations around Fairfax County, including the Mount Vernon Government Center located at 2511 Parkers Lane from 3-7 pm Monday-Friday and from 9am-5pm on Saturdays up until Nov. 2. 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 returned by the time polls close on Election Day at 7 pm. Last year, I introduced a bill to make Election Day a state holiday so we make it as easy as possible for everyone to vote and increase the safety of our kids by not intruding upon open schools where many polls are located. In the coming session, I hope to get this initiative, as well as no-excuse absentee voting, across the finish line.

Ensuring that 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 each year from a young age. Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a class of AP Government students at Hayfield Secondary School who are eager to participate and can’t wait until they are old enough to vote next year. Please make sure you take the time to vote this year and visit the Department of Elections website 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 as your Delegate representing the 44th District.