Table of Contents
By Kenneth R. “Ken” Plum, State Delegate (D-36)
My earliest experience in government and politics came when I was a senior in high school. Responding to rumors in the rural community where I lived with my parents that vote buying was going on, I did a research paper at the encouragement of my government class teacher who knew of my intense interest in politics to learn whether vote buying was taking place. I made an inquiry to the then-secretary of the State Board of Elections as to whether I could secure vote totals along with the absentee votes cast for all the jurisdictions in the 1950s. Much to my surprise, he responded with the numbers, and I charted votes cast in total along with the absentee votes cast. What I found was what I had been told: In rural Page County where I lived and several counties in far Southwest Virginia the percentage of absentee votes cast in years when local officials were elected would be about one-third. In other jurisdictions including more urban and suburban areas, absentee votes would account for only one to two percent.
1 What was happening
What was happening was that political workers in these counties, apparently of both parties, would go out to backroads and mountain hollows with absentee ballots for which they would approach voters by agreeing to pay their poll taxes that were required to vote at the time and promising who knows what other favors. The answer I received when I inquired of leaders of both parties as to why this illegal practice continued was that both sides were doing it and there was no one left to enforce the law!
The poll tax requiring voters to pay a tax three years in a row at least six months before the election was instituted in the 1902 Constitution with the avowed purpose of “cleaning up” elections, which translated to mean keeping Black citizens and poor whites from voting. Along with the blank sheet voter registration and literacy test the number of registered voters was cut in half. The reform of the voting system had met its intended purpose of ensuring— without fraud—that only the “right” people voted.
Fortunately, these abuses of the electoral system were eliminated by a federal constitutional amendment and court decisions. With the outcome of the Virginia elections in 2019, a more progressive General Assembly and governor were elected who further modernized the electoral registration and voting system to make Virginia a leader in election reform. We have the most open and accessible system of government among the states.
For the dozens of people who emailed me (with a few emails coming from my constituents) asking that I seek a “forensic investigation” of the outcome of the 2020 election in Virginia, I want to be clear that I will not seek such an investigation. President Biden won clearly nationwide, and he won by a landslide in Virginia. There is no credible evidence of fraud or irregularities. The entire election process in Virginia is monitored by persons of both parties. The “big lie” is just that. Those who propose election changes to enhance their chances of winning are the ones who are creating the fraud.
2 More Than Just Voting
By Kenneth R. “Ken” Plum, State Delegate (D-36)
Readers of this column no doubt have next Tuesday, Nov. 5, marked as Election Day on their calendars. You are exceptional. If history holds true, fewer than half of registered voters will vote. Getting people to register is a year-round activity but getting registered voters to actually cast a vote is a crunch-time activity for the last couple of weeks before the election.
Tired of all the robo-calls? Slick postcards in the mailbox? Contentious debate on the news media? Endless social media posts? Much of that activity is directed to reminding people to vote and to gain a competitive advantage, but it oftentimes turns off folks who are cynical about the electoral process or who are confused by it all.
Historically there have been many efforts to suppress the vote by passing laws that prevent various classes of people from qualifying to register or that add to the complexities of voting that discourage people from going to the polls. Virginia’s history is filled with numerous examples of laws that reduced the franchise. Literacy tests that were unreasonable or unfairly administered, poll taxes that not only charged for voting but included a time schedule for a collection that only insiders could meet, and unusually long residency requirements are but a few examples. For much of our history in Virginia, the majority party in control of state politics worked to keep people from voting!
Against that backdrop of individual cynicism and confusing election laws, what are we who understand the importance of elections to do to increase participation in voting? I believe we need to get past the old adage that it is not polite to talk about politics and religion. Leaving religion for another discussion, I believe more than ever that we need to have a more inclusive discussion that might inevitably lead to a debate about politics and government in our state and in our nation. Keeping it civil is the first rule but be sure to end the discussion with a reminder to friends, family and neighbors to vote. Our government is no better than what voters decide.
Between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 5, polls will be open for voting in Virginia. If you are not sure where to vote, go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections. You can find where your polling place is but also what is on the ballot. All seats in the House of Delegates and the State Senate are up for election as are Constitution officers (for Fairfax that is the Sheriff and the Commonwealth’s Attorney).
4 At the Fairfax County level
At the Fairfax County level, voters elect the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, the supervisor to represent their magisterial district, three at-large School Board members and a School Board member for their magisterial district, three members of the Soil and Water Conservation District board, and a question on issuing school bonds.
There are few surprises in how I intend to vote. School children often ask me if I vote for myself, and I can assure you that I do.
I WILL BE VOTING FOR Senator Janet Howell; for Sheriff Stacey Kincaid; for Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano; for Board of Supervisor chairman Jeff McKay; Walter Alcorn for Hunter Mill supervisor; Melanie Meren for Hunter Mill School Board representative; for School Board at-large Karen Keys-Gamarra, Abrar Omeish, Rachna Sizemore Heizer; and for Soil and Water Conservation Board Gerald Peters, Chris Koerner, and Monica Billger; and voting ‘Yes’ on the school bond issue.
If you need to vote early, get absentee voting information at https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting/index.html.
See you at the polls with your friends and neighbors on Tuesday. Now more than ever, it is important to vote and to take someone to the polls with you!