Two constitutional amendments on Nov. 8 ballot
While this year’s presidential race has dominated all the coverage this election cycle, Virginia voters will also have other things to consider when they cast their ballots on Nov. 8, among them two proposed amendments to the state constitution.
Mathews County Voter Registrar Carla Faulkner recently discussed various issues related to the election. She shared information regarding referendums included on the ballot, the time left for residents to vote absentee, and concerns about election fraud raised by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Gloucester Voter Registrar Bobbi Morgan weighed in on the fraud issue, as well.
Faulkner is urging residents to familiarize themselves with the proposed constitutional amendments that are included on this year’s ballot in order to avoid creating long lines at the polls on Nov. 8. There is also a meals tax referendum included on the ballot in Mathews that could similarly trigger a back-up if residents aren’t familiar with the issue.
Faulkner said that neither she nor any of the election officials who will be at the polls on Election Day will be allowed to explain the meaning of the constitutional amendment proposals or the meals tax referendum. Voters will therefore have to get their information elsewhere.
“We’re handed the wording just like the general public and we may not interpret it the way the General Assembly intended,” said Faulkner. “Our interpretation could sway a vote, so we cannot help.”
Coming to the polls with advance understanding of the issues will help ensure “a quick trip in and out” she said. In addition, sample ballots will be handed out so voters can review the issues once again before voting.
The constitutional amendments are identified as Question 1 and Question 2 on the ballot, and the voter will be asked to answer either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each question.
Question 1 has to do with labor unions. According to the Virginia Department of Elections website, a ‘yes’ answer would be in favor of enacting a constitutional amendment to address issues that are currently covered under Virginia’s Right to Work law.
Under that law, it has been illegal in Virginia since 1947 for an employer to 1) deny a person the right to work at a business if they’re not a member of the affiliated union, 2) require a person to join a union and pay dues as a condition of employment, or 3) allow a union to acquire an employment monopoly in a business. The proposed amendment takes these provisions of the Right to Work law and places them in the state constitution.
A ‘no’ answer would prevent the constitutional amendment from going into effect; however, the laws governing the issues would still be in place.
Question 2 has to do with real estate tax exemptions for the surviving spouses of various emergency personnel. A ‘yes’ answer would allow enactment of a state law giving localities the option to provide real estate tax exemptions to the surviving spouses of law-enforcement officers, firefighters, search and rescue personnel, and emergency medical services personnel killed in the line of duty.
This would apply to spouses killed in the line of duty before the law went into effect and to spouses who did not live in Virginia at the time of the spouse’s death, but it would only affect real estate taxes owed after the amendment becomes law. The property would have to be the surviving spouse’s principal place of residence, and the exemption would cease if the surviving spouse remarried.
Meals tax referendum
A ‘yes’ vote on the meals tax referendum would allow Mathews County to place a 4 percent tax on foods and beverages sold in restaurants and on prepared sandwiches and single meals sold at deli counters, grocery stores, and convenience stores in Mathews. The money would be designated for “a Capital Improvement Fund for Mathews County, Mathews County Schools and Public Safety purchases and projects.”
By law, Virginia counties cannot assess such a tax without a voter referendum, and the tax cannot exceed 4 percent. Cities, on the other hand, can assess such taxes in any amount without a referendum.
Gloucester voters approved a similar referendum in 1996. That county has had a meals tax in place since February 1997.