Voter education is a crucial component of every election. It enables constituents to make the best decision regarding their community’s well-being, and true voter education is understanding that the effects of elections go far beyond any two (or four) candidates. Electoral outcomes occupy every level of government and allow for the elected to impact policy at varying degrees. Citizens have the great power to influence policy by voting for candidates, but it’s also important to recognize other ballot measures, such as referendums. A referendum is a specific proposal that has been referred to the electorate for a direct vote. The outcome of this vote can result in an amendment to a law or the Virginia Constitution. On November 8th, Virginia will have two referendums on the ballot, and thus an opportunity for voters to directly influence Virginia’s future.
The first referendum concerns a preexisting right to work law. Under the current Virginia law, labor unions and employers are prohibited from denying nonunion members the right to employment or demanding union membership as a requirement to work. While this law is currently in the state code, the passage of this referendum would enshrine it into the Constitution of Virginia.
The second referendum on the ballot expands upon an existing law relating to law enforcement and first responder personnel. The Constitution of Virginia currently states that the General Assembly may exempt eligible veterans injured in the line-of-duty or spouses of veterans killed in the line-of-duty from property tax on their principal place of residence. This amendment would allow a locality to exempt the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel from property tax on their principal place of residence. The exemption remains in effect unless or until the spouse remarries.
Voting extends beyond political parties and candidates. The two referendums on this year’s ballot are an expression of direct democracy and therefore direct impact. Our elections open the doorway for a single person to utilize their voice to impact themselves and those around them. So on November 8th, I hope you’ll choose to be heard.