The devil is in the details
To comply with the “one person one vote” mandate of the United States Constitution, the Commonwealth and the rest of the county is involved in redrawing electoral districts using updated population information from the April 2010 census.
In the past few weeks, meetings were held around Goochland County to discuss shifting of voters required by the process. Transcripts of all of the meetings are available on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us.
Some Districts, notably 5, 4 and 2 have more than the ideal 4,343 voters while District 1 and 3 have fewer voters.
To try to equalize the number of voters in all districts, some voters were moved from District 5 into District 4, some from District 4 into District 3 and some from District 2 into District 1. Given the long narrow shape of the county and widely disbursed population, making the changes was difficult and some of those who would have been affected were not pleased by the changes, so additional tweaking was done.
In addition to moving voters into different districts, the proposal includes moving some polling places and moving voters to different polling places in an attempt to equalize the number of voters at each precinct.
In District 4, the Crozier precinct has been eliminated because all of Goochland will now be represented in the State Senate by Walter Stosch. So, the voters from Crozier will be added to the Centerville precinct, which will be moved to St. Matthew’s Methodist Church. Company 3, which has been the Centerville polling place for many years, is no longer suitable due to the widening of Broad Street Road.
Moving a polling place off of a main road is a wise decision that has worked well in Hadensville and Manakin. The only problem with this move is that far too many people,more than 3,000, are designated to vote there.
District 4 needs a second polling place to the west of Centerville. Either Jerusalem Baptist Church on Three Chopt Road or the Redeemer Assembly of God on Cardwell Road come to mind for this use as does the new multipurpose room at Randolph Elementary School.
It is easy to envision voters unable to find a parking spot at St. Matthew’s deciding not to bother casting a ballot. A second site would eliminate this difficulty. District 4 supervisor Rudy Butler, who has long advocated moving the Centerville voting precinct to St. Matthew’s, believes that the location has more parking and better lighting than Company 3, but concedes that a second precinct will be needed in District 4 for the 2012 presidential election. Electronic voting books speed the polling process, said Butler, which he believes will prevent long lines. We’ll see because it may be too late to add a second precinct in District 4.
Redistricting is perhaps the most unpleasant and visual part of governmental sausage making. Incumbents are allowed to protect themselves in future elections by ensuring that areas that support them are not taken out of their districts. Most voters will not be aware of any change until they receive notice that they will be casting ballots in a different location and perhaps a different district than last year.
The supervisors, who make the final decisions about this process, will hold a public hearing on the plan at their May 3 meeting. Time is of the essence in this process, because the whole thing must be approved by the United States Department of Justice before implementation to ensure timely elections in November.
Speaking of elections, where are all the candidates?
Lots of people have been muttering about cleaning house on the Board of Supervisors and School Board. Indeed, a significant change in the composition of both boards might well be the tonic that Goochland needs. For that to happen, however, someone needs to run for office.
According to county registrar Francis Ragland, so far only a few people have filed their papers to run for office. These include two candidates for supervisor in both District 1 and 5; two for the treasurer; one each for school board in Districts 1, 3 and 5 and one by the incumbent Commissioner of the Revenue. As of this date, no incumbent school board members have filed their electoral papers.
In order to run for office you must be at least 18 years of age; a resident of Virginia for one year; a resident of the district in which you seek office; not a convicted felon or denied voting rights due to mental incompetency and, in the case of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, must be licensed to practice law.
There is no filing fee to run for office. An application, including signatures of 125 registered voters in the jurisdiction in which you seek office (voting district for supervisor or school board, Goochland County for Constitutional Officers) must be completed. Ragland suggests gathering 200 signatures to be on the safe side because sometimes people sign more than once. This documentation must be filed by August 23, 2011 in order for a name to be placed on the November ballot.
Local political parties have their own rules for candidate selection, so check with either Alan Tucker of Goochland Democrats or Ben Slone of Goochland Republicans for details.
Gathering the signatures may seem like a burden, but it is an ideal way to make personal contact with voters. Goochland is still small enough that candidates can and should make the effort to meet everyone they want to represent.
This includes school board candidates who have a tendency to ignore citizens without children in county schools. As the school system spends the lion’s share of county revenue, the school board has the responsibility of justifying the expenditure.
Goochland County still faces many obstacles. Years of too many uncontested elections have put up into this mess. We need vigorously contested elections to ensure a thorough and public discussion of the challenges we face.
Let the games begin!