Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

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The conservative-opposition majority members of the Falls Church City Council will challenge voting rights laws by intentionally limiting the number of people who vote in city elections.

 

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The conservative-opposition majority members of the Falls Church City Council will challenge voting rights laws by intentionally limiting the number of people who vote in city elections. The city is positioning itself to be the first jurisdiction in post-segregation era Virginia to move its election from a high turnout November election to a much lower voter turnout May election in an effort to improve the quality of participating voters. It is a remarkable initiative. The council members are either political geniuses, or richly deserving of the backside kicking they are about to receive. The safe money is heavy on the backside kicking.

Actually, the reason for moving elections back to May is not very complicated. Under the guise of nonpartisan low turnout May elections, Republicans can align with disaffected opposition candidates to elect conservative council members in the most progressive jurisdiction in Virginia. All that is required for the alliance to work are May elections and unorganized progressives. If local elections are held in November the conservative-opposition political alliance does not work. The overwhelmingly progressive community of Falls Church would be governed by (gasp) candidates chosen by its majority progressive voters, and not the candidates selected by the minority conservative-opposition bosses.

The first rule, however, of a political alliance is do not talk about the political alliance.  So the conservative-opposition faithful are talking in circles trying to explain how “quality not quantity” should be the new voting fashion.

The old faithful for this group is “let the people decide” by advisory referendum. A position belayed by the fact council wants to change elections back to May before it holds an advisory referendum. And the fact the opposition refused to follow the voter advice on the last two public referendums (remember the voters twice rejecting the 50 percent commercial rule Snyder, Baroukh and Kaylin all tried to impose as the new development standard a few weeks ago?). And the fact the council has coyly not committed to actually following the advice if voters want November elections. Remember also a few weeks ago council killed all discussion of affordable housing as a “waste of time” in these “dire financial times.” Yet somehow the money and time to self-fund local elections, a referendum, election recertification, and the exposure to litigation costs as a result of moving elections is somehow magically available and a priority.

The other arguments are variations on a theme of insulting the intelligence of city residents:  people who vote in November do not know about city issues and cannot think independently (need proof please); city voters are not smart enough to cast a ballot with partisan and nonpartisan candidates (unlike the hundred or so other local jurisdictions in Virginia which have mixed ballot November elections); and the previous council was not smart in its decision making (they seemed to spend a lot of time on the decision).

It has been a hundred years since Virginia imposed citizenry intelligence tests on its citizens. I never thought Falls Church would be the one to try to resurrect institutional voter discrimination.

 


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.

 

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