Community Meeting with Disenfranchised Voters: Make Sure We're Barking Up the Right Tree
Last evening I attended a community meeting at the Goochland Rec Center on Route 522. The 200+ citizens impacted by the Louisa and Goochland Electoral Board’s decision to "align" voters to the census boundaries as the state code requires, were invited to a meeting with the stated purpose of "...meeting to discuss how to get the Board of Supervisors and Electoral Board to correct this matter before the November 5th election."
The meeting, while sparsely attended by impacted citizens (I would estimate maybe 20), did seem to be rather well-attended by county officials. Three of the five BOS members were in attendance, along with a representative from the Electoral Board, a former registrar and a representative from State Senator Peak's office attended, on what I understand to have been very short notice. The organizer explained she had been traveling and their not being included on the meeting’s invitation was an "unfortunate oversight.”
The meeting commenced with the meeting’s organizer, a board member of the NAACP, explaining why this issue is important to the NAACP and the steps they have taken to address the situation. This opening was followed with an update from the representative of the Electoral Board explaining: how we got here, what they've done to date to correct the issue and how they plan to proceed. This update was followed by input from the Board of Supervisors and the representative from State Senator Peak's office. Several citizens voiced their concerns and made suggestions, all of which was done in a civilized manner. I'm not sure, knowing my own temperament, that if I was in a similar situation I would be as civil, but all were respectful and yet firm in their disgust at this situation.
Behind it all there seems to be an "agenda" at the state level. A bill which would have resolved this was "killed" in the State House even though it passed the Senate with 100% support. We found out in last night’s meeting that a request to include a new version of the bill in the upcoming special session was also killed and won't be presented again thus stopping any legislative solution before it even starts. From all reports a significant player in this situation is Chris Jones.
I am working to understand more about this situation and what is behind it.
Why am I writing this? As the meeting came to a close a significant push for the citizens was made by meeting organizers to have them attend the BOS today on July 2, 2019. Instructions were even provided on how to make comments or defer your time. Please hear me, I believe in MORE involvement and not less. I've been in many a meeting in which there were only a couple of citizens, so involvement is very welcome. My caution is that we focus our efforts in the right place.
An "option" at the community meeting was for the board to knowingly break the law. Another idea thrown out was for the BOS to finance a lawsuit using tax payer dollars to support a private lawsuit. Thankfully, one of the citizens impacted spoke up and disagreed that the whole county should assume this burden. A couple of other ideas were brought up such as "split ballots.” This would be a special ballot provided to the displaced Goochland citizens where they could vote for their local officials on one ballot but use their precinct for state and any national elections.
From this debate I can see that there is a fundamental disagreement on the role and power of the BOS. While I don't believe the board/county handled this flawlessly, I do think they have been working hard to get this resolved. I don't think anyone could have possibly been in that meeting and not walked away with any other opinion and complete agreement that this issue is urgent, that it is wrong and that it needs to get fixed. What I encourage citizens to do is to use their voices loudly. Just make sure you're addressing the right audience to ensure its greatest impact.