Virginia Ballot Initiative – What Will Virginia Voters Decide?
As the midterm elections approach, Republicans are focusing on winning back congressional seats. That includes Virginia’s 10th District, where Rep. Barbara Comstock faces a tough challenge from Democrat Jennifer Wexton.
Voters will also choose the state’s next governor and legislative leaders. All 140 General Assembly seats will be on the ballot.
Issues on the Ballot
The state’s General Assembly and some localities are holding elections this fall. Here’s a look at the issues that voters will decide.
The Wason Center poll shows that Virginians’ top concerns include the economy and inflation, abortion and K-12 education. A split between the parties in the legislature has resulted in a political stalemate, but the outcome of November’s election could have major implications for state policy on these and other issues.
Voters will also decide on several ballot measures, including a constitutional amendment allowing surviving spouses of disabled veterans to claim a tax exemption on their property even if they move out of the home shared with the veteran. The measure is a response to a court decision that struck down a law that limited the exemption for such spouses. Voters may also be asked to approve or reject a constitutional amendment that would require legislators to disclose how they spend campaign funds. These types of ballot measures are referred by the General Assembly or by voter petition.
Question 1: Tax Exemption for Property Owners in Flood-Prone Areas
Voters in areas that have experienced repeated flooding or are at high risk of floods can request a tax exemption on their property. The local governing board would decide whether to grant the exemption.
The measure is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, which means the legislature voted to put it on the ballot. NCSL’s Statewide Ballot Measures Database includes all statewide ballot measures certified by election officials for each year from the late 1800s through the present. The information in the database is searchable by state, topic, keyword, year and measure type.
The legislation would also allow people to register to vote at a location that they consider their primary residence, such as their parent’s home or a place of employment. However, voters will still be required to show proof of their address when voting. People who do not have proof of their address can cast a provisional ballot, which will be reviewed during the electoral board’s canvass (official tally) after the election.
Question 2: Independent Redistricting Commission
The last time Virginia voters had the opportunity to address redistricting, they approved a state constitutional amendment that shifted responsibility for drawing congressional and legislative district boundaries from the legislature to a commission of eight legislators and eight citizens. That commission is charged with producing plans that meet certain criteria, including making districts contiguous and compact; ensuring communities of interest are preserved; and, when possible, providing opportunities for racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice.
This commission has proved unable to produce fair maps, and the task now falls to the Supreme Court. A “yes” vote would establish an independent commission that, if it produces reasonable districts, will be required to submit them to the legislature for approval without any changes. If the commission cannot produce reasonable maps, or if the legislature rejects them, the Supreme Court will be responsible for drawing new districts. The commission’s members will be chosen by the General Assembly, so the potential for political influence remains high.
Question 3: Abortion Access
In the US, a person may legally get abortion care for any reason up to 24 weeks into pregnancy and later when their health or life is at risk. However, many states have restrictive abortion bans that can make it difficult to access this critical care.
Abortion is a safe medical procedure that has extremely low rates of complications. However, barriers to abortion can compound the costs and logistical challenges of seeking care. For example, parental involvement laws can require adolescents to share details of their private lives with multiple people and undergo a stressful legal proceeding before having the right to choose whether to continue or terminate their pregnancy.
The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being used to cover abortions, but some states have enacted laws that allow Medicaid coverage of abortion in certain circumstances. Restrictions on abortion signal worsening access to reproductive health and can compound existing racial, ethnic and socioeconomic health inequities.