This midterm election day, a record number of young people plan to PokemonGo to the polls. You should be among them.
In case you somehow missed the barrage of political ads on TV, the 2018 midterm elections are quickly approaching. Here's what you need to know to make your decision.
Pew Research polls suggest that right now Americans are more engaged in the democratic process than any other time in recent history. On this year's National Voter Registration Day on September 25, more than 800,000 Americans registered to vote -- a record number. Democracy is no longer a spectator sport.
The 2018 midterm elections will take place on Tuesday, November 6. We will be voting on candidates for the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, the School Board in our district, and on two ballot measures pertaining to the state of Virginia.
In Virginia, you can vote anytime between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m, although all voters in line by 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast their ballot. You can find your polling place here on the Virginia Department of Elections website.
What We're Voting On
On your November ballot, you will be voting on five things: the Virginia candidate for the Senate, your district's candidate for the House of Representatives (in case you forgot, Congress = Senate + House of Representatives), your district's candidate for School Board, and two ballot questions.
The Ballot Questions
Understanding what the legalese questions on your ballot are actually asking you can be a little frustrating. So let's break it down. On your ballot this year, you'll see two questions, Virginia Question 1: Remove Restriction on Residence for Surviving Spouse of Disabled Veteran Tax Exemption Amendment, and Virginia Question 2: Property Tax Exemption for Flood Abatement Amendment. (Now try saying that five times fast.)
These questions seem hyper-specific, but eventually, they might affect your life. Invest a few minutes and check them out -- like, for democracy, man.
Here are the questions you'll see on your ballot (and what they actually mean.)
What you'll see on your ballot: Shall the real property tax exemption for a primary residence that is currently provided to the surviving spouses of veterans who had a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be amended to allow the surviving spouse to move to a different primary residence and still claim the exemption?
What it's asking:
Question One asks about a law regarding property tax exemptions for the spouses of disabled military veterans. Property tax exemptions protect a home's value from inflated property tax, creditors, and other expenses resulting from the death of a spouse. If you're in the military and your spouse dies, you can get that exemption.
Under current Virginia law, military spouses (many of whom live in military base housing) will lose that property tax exemption if they move to a new home. Virginia Question One proposes changing this rule so surviving spouses of disabled veterans can keep that tax exemption when they move.
What your vote means:
To answer this question, you'll have the option of voting yes or no. If you vote yes on Question One, you are voting for this rule to change. If you vote no, you are voting for things to stay the same and this law to not be amended. (Read a more in-depth explainer here.)
What you'll see on your ballot: Should a county, city, or town be authorized to provide a partial tax exemption for real property that is subject to recurrent flooding, if flooding resiliency improvements have been made on the property?
What it's asking:
Although you wouldn't know it from the verbiage, Question Two is a bit more clear. It also has to do with property tax exemptions. Question Two proposes for the state government to provide a partial property tax exemption for people who live in areas that get flooded a lot, and who make improvements to their homes to protect them from flooding.
Basically, if your area gets frequent flooding and your home is at risk of flood damage and you make home improvements to prevent or reduce damage from flooding, the government will give you a discount.
What your vote means:
Again, if you vote Yes on Question Two, you're voting for this to happen. If you vote No, nothing changes. (You can read more about this proposed amendment here.)
Ignore those political ads on TV -- they won't help you become an informed voter. Thankfully, we have the internet, and you can learn about everything a candidate stands for with just one click.
Goochland County Sample 2018 Ballot, Courtesy of Virginia Department of Elections
We'll also be voting on our House and Senate representatives. There are 100 members in the U.S. Senate (two from every state) who each serve terms of six years. In other words, whoever wins this Senate election will be your representative for the next six years.
Members of the House of Representatives represent everyone in their district (there are 11 congressional districts in Virginia), while members of the Senate represent the entire state. All states have two Senate representatives, but the number of Congressional representatives varies based on population. Since Virginia has 11 congressional districts, Virginia has 11 seats in the House, but only one represents your district. House Representatives serve two-year terms and are up for election every other year.
Viginia Candidates for Senate
The 2018 Virginia candidates for Senate are Tim Kaine (Democrat), Corey Stewart (Republican), and Matt Waters (Libertarian). Tim Kaine is the incumbent, meaning he currently sits in office. Kaine has been a Virginia U.S. Senate representative since 2013. He was also Governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010.
Republican candidate Corey Stewart is a newcomer to statewide elections, but he's held public office before. Stewart was elected to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in 2003, where he has served ever since. Stewart has been the Board's chairman since 2007. Stewart beat out two other candidates in the June 2018 primary election to win the Republican nomination, and now plans to challenge incumbent Tim Kaine. Stewart also ran in the 2017 Virginia Republican gubernatorial primaries, where he narrowly lost to Republican Ed Gillespie.
Matt Waters, a Hampton Roads native, is the Libertarian candidate for Senate. He has not held elected office before. Waters ran a largely grassroots campaign, with his campaign raising only $29,358 compared to Kaine's $19 million and Stewart's $1.3 million campaigns for advertising and other election expenses.
On each candidate's profile page, you can also view their major campaign donors as well as any organizations they are affiliated with. If the candidate has previously served in office, you can also see how they've voted on issues in the past.
Virginia Candidates for the House of Representatives
The candidates running for the House of Representatives vary by district. But don't worry, you can find out who's running for office in your district by looking on Ballotpedia.
To find out who will be on the ballot in your district, visit Ballotpedia's Virginia election lookup page and enter your current address (or the address where you're registered to vote) in the search bar. The site will then tell you your congressional district, your polling location, and what's on your November ballot, including a list of the candiates running for the House of Representatives. You can also click on each candidate to view their profile information, including their platforms on major issues and their public office history (if applicable).
Candidates for School Board also vary by district. School Board elections might not seem glamorous, but School Board members actually wield the power to make hugely impactful decisions in their areas.
In Richmond, the candidates for School Board in Richmond City Public Schools District 7 are Gary Broderick, Bryce Robinson, and Cheryl Burke; Virginia Beach has a large number of School Board candidates this year, a list of which can be viewed at this link.
You can find out who's running for School Board in your district by searching 2018 ballots for your address on Ballotpedia.
Do you plan to vote on Election Day? Let us know in the comments!