Legal or Illegal

6 02 2009

Recently, a judge ruled that Norfolk’s elected mayor system was legal. The entire thing stemmed from a decision made for the 1992 election. That decision said that Norfolk’s at-large council elections were diluting minority votes and were a violation of the Voting Rights Act. Thus the creation of Norfolk’s current ward system. Since then, Norfolk has had many more black councilman than before, leading to an increased representation for minorities of the city. Virginia Beach and Chesapeake on the other hand, still have at-large elections. Chesapeake has actually done very surprisingly well. They have 4 blacks and 5 whites on their council, excellent considering they are 66% white and 28% black. Virginia Beach, however, not so much. For a city that is 69% white,  91% of their council is white. The only minority on council is of Asian/Pacific Islander decent. Virginia Beach has 36,000 more minorities than Portsmouth has residents, the majority of those black.

While in some instances, the lack of minority representatives can be attributed to lack of interest, 99% is more likely to be the lack of funds to run a successful campaign. While the city cannot directly affect this, they can ease the cost. For starters, a ward system. The system divides the city up into sections, so each candidate can concentrate their money on a few thousand people. Without a ward system, like in Virginia Beach, every candidate has to reach out to every citizen. In VB, that means over 440,000 people. If they ran elections with a system similar to Norfolk, each candidate would only need to reach out to 44,000 people, extending the value of their dollar. Chesapeake could benefit from this plan as well, which would make it easier for someone from the South Norfolk area to represent in City Council. Currently, all of the city council members live in either Western Branch or Greenbrier with a couple in Great Bridge/Grassfield. There are NO South Norfolk representatives (which answers alot when you visit South Norfolk).

While I think these plans would greatly help Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, I live in Norfolk. If you think that these are a good idea for your city, you need to act on it. If you are a minority, you could even win a court case if you took it that far.

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