Letter: Reflections on the Referendum Vote
TO THE EDITORS OF THE FALLS CHURCH TIMES
November 10, 2011
I’d like to offer my congratulations to all of the referendum supporters. Though I opposed the referendum, I am very happy the question was brought to City residents to decide.
Though many are ready to now move on, I think we’ve really just begun. November elections on local issues are completely new to Falls Church, there is a lot of work to be done and I hope the community will stay engaged.
Starting first with the election results, I am concerned to see that voter turnout for this first November vote on local issues was still only 30.7%. As one of the biggest selling points for the change, moving to November didn’t magically improve turnout. As a community, we need to keep thinking about how to keep everyone informed and engaged, and continue to improve turnout. One idea that has been raised in the past is introducing vote by mail. Perhaps we should think about acting on this or other ideas to get the vote out.
Second, I was really struck with what appeared to be a partisan vote. Consider:
- 1,738 votes to pass the referendum
- 1,730 votes for Democratic Candidate Saslaw (the only contested race on the ballot)
Perhaps it’s some anomaly or strange coincidence, but I suspect the local Democratic Committee’s support of the referendum through sample ballots, emails, etc. had some influence on those numbers being virtually identical. To be clear, it is freedom of speech and well within their right to support anything they want to quite frankly, but in my view this is a slippery slope of political endorsements that will allow partisanship to become an integral part of our local elections.
Going forward, I hope the City Council will do everything in its power to limit partisanship in our elections. This includes not only a charter change which Mr. Webb recently raised, but I would ask the Council to go further and pass a resolution, or intent statement, stating why this was put to a referendum to begin with, and declaring for future generations that they hope it will not enable partisanship at the polls. While not binding, my hope is it sets the tone for generations to come, and helps preserve the proud
non-partisan tradition that we have.
Second, and equally important, I hope the local Democratic and Republican Committees adopt similar resolutions or intent statements, and perhaps even a code of conduct that reaffirms their current public positions of not allowing partisanship to influence local elections. Political endorsements of candidates, co-mingling political advertisements, canvassing door to door for state and local party candidates should all be declared off-limits. I hope this will also help set the tone within their respective organizations to
prevent future partisanship.
While these actions would help, I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think our City Council and the local political committees alone have the final say on whether or not our future elections become partisan. It really will be up to each and every one of us as individuals to stand firm, stay vigilant and ensure it does not become a staple in our future. The diversity of candidates and opinions that we gain from staying non-partisan will benefit our City for generations to come.
Falls Church City
By (see byline)
November 10, 2011