In Virginia, voters in seven counties will decide on nine local ballot measures alongside state legislative elections on Nov. 7. The local ballot measures range in topic, including government structure and elections, gambling expansion, general obligation bonds for school facilities and capital improvement projects.
Measures on government and elections
Two of the ballot measures address government structure and elections. One is Hanover County, which is north of Richmond. The ballot initiative would change how school board members are selected for Hanover County Public Schools (HCPS). Currently, the seven-member Hanover County Board of Supervisors appoints members of the school board to four-year terms. Six of the supervisors are Republicans, and one is a Democrat. The ballot initiative would make the school board an elected body, with voters directly electing the school board members.
According to the Virginia School Boards Association, HCPS is one of 13 school divisions (of 132) where board members are appointed, rather than elected. In 1992, Virginia became the last state to permit elected school boards. HCPS provides education for approximately 17,000 students in 26 schools.
Hanover Citizens for an Elected School Board is leading a campaign to support the ballot initiative. The campaign stated that the initiative would “make school board members accountable to citizens, rather than the one Board of Supervisors representative who appointed them.” Bob Holsworth, founding director of the Center for Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University, said, “The argument you make is that it’s a ‘parents’ matter’ situation. If you want parents to control what their children are going to attain in the school system, why not let them have a direct voice? This is a place where the ACLU and the NAACP and the ideology of ‘parents matter’ are in alignment.”
Keep Hanover Students First, which opposes the initiative, stated, “… a group backed by the Teacher Unions, supporters of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and those pushing transgender issues have attempted to takeover our School Board by forcing a ballot measure that would require School Board Members to be elected and focus on running for office, rather than on our children.” Jack Dyer, chairperson of the Hanover County Republican Committee, said, “We feel more comfortable with the school board being taken care of by the elected board of supervisors. We voted them in to serve the seven districts of Hanover County and we look to them to make those appointments.”
In Pittsylvania County, voters in the town of Hurt, with a population of 1,259, will decide on a ballot measure to downsize the town council from six to four members. Hurt Mayor Gary Hodnett said the measure was referred to the ballot due to constant vacancies. “It’s not very efficient for Council to run and work when you constantly have members that are spending a short term on council, resigning and so forth. Since I’ve been here I think I’ve counted at least 10 vacancies that we’ve had,” said Mayor Hodnett.
Measures to expand gambling
In Richmond and Manassas Park, measures to expand gambling are on the ballot. Voters in Richmond will, for a second time, be asked whether to allow a casino to be established. The ballot measure follows a vote in Nov. 2021, when 50.95% voted to reject a casino measure. Axios reported that this year’s pro-casino campaign topped $8.1 million compared to the $2.6 million spent in 2021.
In Manassas Park, Churchill Downs Incorporated and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums organized a signature drive campaign for an initiative to allow pari-mutuel wagering, also known as pool betting, at satellite facilities. Rosie’s is planning a location within a shopping center in Manassas Park.
General obligation bonds for schools, parks, and more
Five of the local measures on the ballot in Virginia are general obligation bonds, which are similar to loans, in which the government takes a debt and repays the principal and interest over a set period of time. A general obligation bond, also known as a GO bond, is based on the government’s pledge to generate revenue, such as through taxes.
In Loudoun County, there are three bond measures on the ballot:
- One would authorize up to $59.57 million in bonds for capital improvement projects, including a fire and rescue station, parks and trails, and an adult care center.
- One would authorize up to $362.71 million in bonds for designing, constructing, and equipping public school facilities.
- One would authorize up to $156.62 million million in bonds for public road projects.
In Fairfax County, voters will decide on a measure to authorize up to $435.00 million in bonds for public school improvements, such as acquiring and renovating properties, buildings, and furnishings. In Gloucester County, voters will decide on a measure to authorize up to $39.58 million for capital improvement projects related to volunteer fire and rescue departments, public school facilities, and parks and recreation facilities.
In 2023, Ballotpedia is covering local ballot measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the 100 largest cities in the U.S., within state capitals, and throughout California. Ballotpedia is also covering a selection of election-related, policing-related, and other ballot measures outside of the largest cities.