Voters on Tuesdays must not only choose candidates, but whether to support two constitutional amendments concerning redistricting and tax break for certain veterans.
Voters will vote yes or no on whether to revamp the current way Virginia draws its congressional and state representative maps and if veterans with 100 percent disabilities should pay state and local taxes on an automobile or pickup truck.
Constitutional Amendment No. 1 would transfer the power to create congressional and legislative districts from the state legislators to a 16-member redistricting committee comprised of eight legislators and eight citizens of Virginia.
Leaders of the General Assembly would pick members to serve on a commission, two Democrats and two Republicans from the House of Delegates and the same makeup from the Senate. The eight citizens members would be recommended by legislative leaders and approved by five retired circuit court judges. Commissioners would select one of the eight citizens members as the chairperson of the redistricting committee. Additionally, the change requires publicly available data for all meetings and a supermajority of members for approval of district maps.
There are two criteria the commission would use to draw the map, according to various sources. The first, the district would need to be drawn in accordance with “the requirements of federal and state law, that address racial and ethnic fairness” including the Equal Protection Clause and the 14th Amendment and provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The second criteria need to “provide, where practicable, opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.”
A vote of yes signals support, while a vote of no means opposed.
Those in favor of the change argue it allows better representation in minority communities. “This new amendment addresses the concerns directly: Every electoral district shall be drawn in accordance with the requirements of federal and state law that address racial and ethnic fairness …” said Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax.
Those opposed argue the current system works in protecting minorities. The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Del. Lamont Bagby, D- Henrico, argues the constitutional change will reverse hard-fought advances among Black citizens. “I don’t think it’s better than what we have now and in fact takes a step back because now at least we have African Americans at the table and in the room. I would be willing to bet this reform will lead to African Americans not even being involved in the process.”
If the amendment passes, the redistricting commission’s map would be filed with the General Assembly, which would vote to pass the new map into law or reject it. The General Assembly cannot amend the map as it is presented. If the body rejects the redistricting map, the commission would draw up a new map. If the map is rejected again, the Virginia Supreme Court would establish the districts.
According to Ballotpedia, groups supporting the change have raised nearly $444,000, the vast majority, $438,000, in cash contributions. Opposition hasn’t raised any funds.
The second ballot question is should one automobile or truck owned and used primarily by or for a veteran of the U.S. armed services or Virginia National Guard who has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be free from state and local taxation?
Voting yes is support, while a no vote is opposition.
Under the amendment, a motor vehicle owned by the spouse of a veteran or National Guard member would also be eligible.
This amendment, if passed, would begin on Jan. 1, 2021. The veteran who is claiming the exemption would not receive any taxes paid on the vehicle prior to Jan. 1,2021, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.
Botetourt County hasn’t determined how much the county would lose in tax revenues, said Chris Booth, the Commissioner of Revenue.