Did you know that every year in Virginia is an election year? This November is an off-cycle election, meaning a general election which is held when neither a presidential nor a midterm election takes place. Voters will choose their representatives in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate. All 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for election.
A number of factors make this election highly competitive. First, the control of the House and Senate is currently decided by one seat in each body. If the party control changes hands, new representatives would control the House and Senate and new chairs would be appointed to standing committees that make important decisions related to education, public health and safety, the economy, the environment, and more. Secondly, several House districts have been ordered to be redistricted by the Supreme Court due to racial gerrymandering. This means that the demographic makeup of some districts has changed under court-ordered redistricting plans.
The Richmond area is home to two of the most closely divided Senate districts in the state: in the tenth district, Glen Sturtevant and Ghazala Hashmi are vying for the seat; in the twelfth district, Siobhan Dunnavant and Debra Rodman will face off. With these hot races, as well as the competitive House seats, you likely have seen TV commercials, received literature in the mail, and spotted candidates and campaign volunteers going door-to-door to talk to voters. While the election season can be tiresome, it is incredibly important to understand the policy preferences of those who will weigh in on the state budget and our laws for the next several years.
A good way to learn more about the candidates and your current representatives is to follow them on social media. If you like or follow these people on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, you will get a better sense of the initiatives they support and their work at the Capitol. You can Tweet or tag them in questions like: How would you ensure that all children enter school ready to learn? How would you ensure that school districts can meet students’ mental health needs?
If you are not active on social media, you can learn more about the candidates by looking them up through the Virginia Public Access Project (vpap.org). When you enter your address here, you can learn in which district you live and then research your candidates. You can also browse the local public broadcast stations at vpm.org and listen to their reports, read the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and look at a nonpartisan political analysis website, such as virginiamercury.com.
Finally, if you haven’t voted absentee already, make plans to go to the polls on Election Day, November 5. Visit vote.elections.virginia.gov and enter your name and other information to find your polling place. Don’t forget to bring your photo ID; no other documentation is required. The polls are open from six in the morning until seven in the evening, and as long as you are in line by seven o’clock, you are eligible to vote.
Finally, to make Election Day even more memorable, bring your kids with you to the polls. It’s never too early to demonstrate good citizenship.