The telephone rang in our kitchen this weekend, and the recorded voice asked if we would respond to a political survey. My husband grimaced and handed the telephone to me. It was a WUSA Channel 9 poll, surveying responses about the Senate race in Virginia. It was one of those push button polls – push 1 for yes, 2 for no, etc. Near the end of the 15 or so questions was a fascinating one: on a scale of one to 10, how interested are you in the political process? One was not interested; 10 was passionately, overwhelmingly interested. You can imagine what my response was; is there an 11, maybe a 12, on the scale?
Nonetheless, now that Election Day 2006 has passed into the history books, and the recorded calls to get out the vote have ceased to disturb mealtime and whatever other household functions get interrupted, Virginia voters can take a breath before the 2007 campaigns begin. The “off-off” year elections, as they are called, offer Fairfax County voters more choices than ever, as all 10 seats on the Board of Supervisors, 12 School Board positions, all the General Assembly positions (nine Senate seats and 17 delegate seats in Fairfax County alone), three Soil and Water Conservation District slots, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the Sheriff, and only once every eight years, the Clerk of the Court. That’s 54 seats in all, just in Fairfax County. Replicate similar elections across all 95 counties in Virginia next year, and voters will have an unparalleled opportunity to exercise their constitutional right, and responsibility, to vote.
Sadly, historical analyses show that turnout is lower in these local elections than in congressional and presidential years. Yet, decisions made locally affect our daily lives more than any made by folks across the river. In sports, fans talk about a team’s fortunes “next year.” In Virginia politics, there’s a “next year” every year. Better get ready!
Although the election results are not known as I write this column, one thing we do know is that Northern Virginia is home to more than 182,000 veterans, including nearly 20,000 women, and 96,000 veterans live in Fairfax County. Northern Virginia veterans served in World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm/Persian Gulf wars, and currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some veterans served in more than one conflict, but Census data does not track that information. According to the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which compiled the demographic information, Prince William County leads in the percentage of veterans (12.3 percent) living there, but their real numbers are only second in concentration with more than 34,500. Falls Church veterans make up 11.2 percent of the city’s population; in Fairfax County, veterans make up 9.9 percent overall. As Veterans’ Day approaches, let us remember, and thank, all those who served, and are serving, under the flag of the United States of America. God bless all.