The November 3rd election of our 140 Delegates and Senators approaches, and to my dismay, far fewer Virginians will vote than vote in presidential or even gubernatorial elections. If you look at the last four-year cycle 71.78% of registered voters participated in the 2012 presidential election, 43% voted in the 2015 gubernatorial, but only 28.61% of registered voters showed up in 2011 when we last voted for all 140 members of the Virginia legislature.
This makes no sense, as state and local elected officials have a far greater impact on our daily lives, and the lives of our students, than our President. Look at education funding, for example: according to a September JLARC report, 6% of K-12 funding comes from federal sources, 38% from the state, and 56% comes from localities. We've really got it backwards -- more people should vote in state and local elections than federal elections. Those elections matter more!
I have served as both a recount official for the Richmond registrar, and a recount observer for statewide candidates. These two duties have driven home, in my mind, the fact that every vote counts.
The one election that haunts me is the 2005 McDonnell/Deeds race for Attorney General. After the recount, Bob McDonnell won by 323 votes. The VEA Fund supported Deeds, and if all 50,000 VEA members had voted, McDonnell would have lost, and would likely have never become governor. We would have been spared his war on teachers -- the attacks on continuing contract, the lack of meaningful progress on teacher salaries, and the reduction of pension benefits for teachers hired after 1/1/14. I remember one House of Delegates race, some years ago in Norfolk, which was decided by 8 votes! Your vote matters, and elections have consequences.
This year, the VEA Fund for Children and Public Education has recommended 29 Senate candidates and 55 House of Delegates candidates. We've backed candidates from both parties who are friends of public education. These recommendations are the result of a great deal of work on the part of your colleagues all over Virginia. They sent questionnaires to candidates, analyzed both the questionnaires and voting records, interviewed candidates, and ascertained electability. They did their best to judge which candidates will be best for public education. These recommendations are posted on the VEA website. Click here to see a list of our recommended candidates.
Our friends at the Virginia Political Access Project, VPAP, just launched a new tool. If you type in your address, it will tell you all sorts of information: where you vote, your representatives in the General Assembly, upcoming elections, newspaper articles about your community, and political donors from your ZIP code. Click here to take a test drive.
I implore, beg, and plead with you to go to the polls on November 3rd. Your vote could make all the difference in the upcoming General Assembly session and the sessions ahead.