Election Day, November 8th is fast approaching and hopefully you have heard about the important November Election Referendum question that is on the ballot. If approved, this Election Referendum will make it easier for every City resident to have a say in shaping the future of our community and schools.
As we get closer to the election, there will be a couple of informational forums dealing with just the Election Referendum. One of these is the joint Citizens for a Better City and Village Preservation and Improvement Society “Community Conversation” which will be held on Tuesday, October 25 at 7:30 p.m., in the George Mason High School Library classroom. This event will not be about the pros and cons, but more about the how and why there is an Election Referendum on the ballot, including historical voting data, as well as discussing the actual November Election Referendum language. The full text of the Election Referendum can be found on our website, www.fallschurchVOTES.com. I urge all City voters to gather as much information on this very important subject as possible, so that everyone can make an informed decision at the polls on Tuesday, November 8.
Approval of the Election Referendum is not the only item that could impact voting in Falls Church. If approved by the Falls Church City Council, the Electoral Board will be consolidating our current five voting Wards down to three. The consolidated polling places will be located at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, the Falls Church Community Center, and the Oakwood Apartments’ Club House. If approved by the City Council, the Falls Church City Registrar will be mailing out new Voter Registration Cards, indicating your new polling place. There are several benefits to the reduction of polling places, one being lower future equipment costs, another being lower staffing costs. All of the voting equipment from the current five Wards will be distributed to each of the three new consolidated Wards. Increasing the number of voting machines available in each Ward will actually make wait times shorter.
In trying to balance the ever-strained City budget each year, finding ways to cut costs is very important. Currently, it costs $18,000 to run an election. If we move to just three Wards, we would save $1,500 per election, mainly in personnel costs. If we add our City Council and School Board elections to the current November State elections, then we save an additional $18,000 for each May election not held. Also the State Board of Elections will be imposing an as-yet-undetermined fee on all localities that continue to hold May elections.
The value of voting in November is easy to see: many more people come to the polls in November. When more people are involved in an election, the conversation between citizens and candidates is more vibrant and inclusive, and those who represent us in office more clearly understand the will of the people.
When more people are involved in an election, the conversation between citizens and candidates is more vibrant and inclusive.
For the past 10 years, May voter turnout has been steadily decreasing. State and Federal elections have always had higher turnout than any May election. Not only is the November turnout significantly higher, but Falls Church often has one the highest turnouts in the entire State. Even in lower turnout years, State elections bring out almost twice as many voters as a May election. It is important to note that if the Election Referendum passes, we will add our municipal elections to the existing November elections which can only be held in odd years. Odd years are when we vote for our General Assembly, Governor and other State Offices. City elections will never conflict with Federal and Presidential elections.
This Election Referendum is not about partisanship. If the parties wanted to endorse candidates, they could have done so in any of the previous May elections. The City has a long-standing tradition of non-partisan elections, and moving the elections to November would not change that. As per State law, party affiliations never even appear on ballots for local offices. I, and many others, believe that local politics in our Little City should remain non-partisan.
Civic participation is at the core of our sense of community here in Falls Church. One important aspect of Civic participation is voting. Voter turnout is extremely important to clearly decide this Election Referendum. It is vital that a majority of registered voters come out and let their voices be heard. The more invested our voters are in the operations of the City, the better our representation will be. Holding City elections in November will rekindle the Falls Church tradition of citizen participation that has made our City such a great place to live, work and raise a family. Let everyone’s voice be heard, vote YES on the Election Referendum on Tuesday, November 8.
Cathy Kaye is the Falls Church City Treasurer.