March 31, 2023

Top 10 FAQs Answered from the Election System Listening Sessions

With five remaining sessions, there's still opportunities to provide input.
Election System Listening Sessions

As of today, seven listening sessions have occurred across the city as part of the City’s efforts to engage the local community on the election system. To date, hundreds of Virginia Beach residents have participated either in-person, virtually or emailed/phoned to share their experience with the current election system.

As a reminder, City Council must make a decision in time for the 2024 elections on whether to keep the current 10-1 system or consider an alternative election system. The City Charter must be updated accordingly (learn more about the background on this issue at SpeakUpVB.com).

With five remaining sessions scheduled through Monday, April 3, the questions below might be on your mind.

What happens when I show up?

When you arrive, you will be asked if you preregistered (not a requirement, but an option we provided for convenience). If not, we will register you as an attendee and you will have an option to sign up to speak.

You will receive handouts that provide background on our election systems as well as all the ways in which a resident can provide their input for you to share with friends and neighbors who may be unaware that we are conducting this community engagement.

The meeting facilitators will promptly start the meeting and introduce themselves and provide information regarding the agenda for the meeting. Then, a five-minute video will be presented that provides an overview of the history of our election systems to this point in time.

From there, in-person speakers will be called up to speak. Virtual speakers will then be invited to speak. If attendees who did not originally sign up to speak decide they would like to speak, if there is time available, we will accommodate those requests.

The moderator will share that if someone in the audience agrees with what the speaker is saying at any point during the meeting, they are invited to raise their hand so they can capture the sentiment of the room.

Will there be time for Q&A?

The purpose of these listening sessions is to hear from residents on their preferences and experience with the election system. This meeting is not a ‘Q&A’ session – it is more like a public hearing where residents can talk and share what’s on their mind.

Research is currently being conducted to identify all legally viable election system options that the City can consider and the City will share that information with residents once that has been completed.

How long do I have to speak?

You have three minutes to speak. If time permits and individuals want to speak more than once, they can.

Can I pre-register?

Yes, but it is not required. We offer pre-registration as a convenience via SpeakUpVB.com. If you can pre-register, please do! This will allow you to check in quickly, pick up your handouts and find your seat. Attendance is ranging anywhere from 20 people to 100 people.

Can I sign up to speak at all of the meetings or just one meeting?

Each meeting is an independent meeting; anyone can sign up to speak at any of the meetings. Since the meetings are both recorded on video and transcribed, the facilitators will have the information to identify duplicate speakers.

Do I have to give you my email address?

We will ask for your email address if you would like to receive future communications on this issue, to include a link to the online survey which will open in April. If you prefer not to provide your contact information, you do not have to. The City respects your privacy.

Do I have to speak if I attend a listening session?

Attendees do not have to speak if they don’t want to. Anyone is welcome to attend and listen to what other residents have to say on the issue. If there is time remaining, you can decide to speak at the last minute, and we will do our best to accommodate those requests within the contracted facility time limit we have.

You can also call the toll-free phone number and leave a voicemail (3-minute limit) with your thoughts after the meeting if public speaking isn’t your thing. You can also email the project with your input.

How much did the City contract with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and what exactly are they doing?

The contract with UVA Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service is $188,958.67.

The contract provides for the Weldon Cooper Center to conduct:

  • Community meetings (with final analysis and report of input)
  • Election system consultation (review of legally viable election systems and report of findings and if, necessary, consultation on a referendum question)
  • Development, production, analysis and final report of a scientific probability-based community survey and an online, open source survey available to all residents

A copy of the contract is provided on SpeakUpVB.com. The amount appropriated for the entire community engagement project was $349,958, which included marketing and advertising support to help make residents aware of the project.

Who are the election legal experts conducting the research into the legally viable voting system options?

The bio information for key project personnel from the UVA Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service has been available in a pdf on the project page. For easier access, it has also been included on the Key Personnel tab. The election legal experts include:

  • Andrew Block, Associate Professor of Law and Director of the State and Local Government Policy Clinic at the UVA Law School
  • Cynthia Hudson, Owner and managing attorney for Eppes-Hudson Law, specializing in municipal law, governmental affairs consulting and employment law.
  • Bertrell Ross, Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia Law School and Director of the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy

When will we know what the election systems options are?

Once the legal research has been concluded, a summary of the findings as well as recommendations will be provided by the legal team noted above and will be shared with City Council and the public. This research is expected to be available later this spring/early summer.

We appreciate and thank those residents who have taken the time to attend a meeting or provided their input via email or telephone on this important issue. Check out the remaining meeting schedule to find a convenient option to attend either in-person or virtually.

City Council seeks your participation in this opportunity to participate in City policy development and decision making. To learn more about this topic, go to SpeakUpVB.com.

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