History records that at the end of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 Benjamin Franklin who was the senior member of the Convention was asked what kind of government the delegates who had sweltered through months of heat and compromises had produced. His oft-quoted response was “a republic if we can keep it.” Through the centuries the Constitution has endured, there have been many instances when there were questions and doubts as to whether we can “keep it.” The very compromises that made a unique form of a republic possible create the tensions that shake its very existence.
Traditionally the day after Labor Day has been the start of the election season, but as election seasons run together and overlap confusion can result and fatigue set in about the campaign process and the number and extremeness of candidates. Keeping a republic that has been described as not being perfect but the best system that has ever been devised continues to rest with informed and involved voters.
This election year is the one that occurs every four years in Virginia with a ballot full of offices and candidates seeking those offices. With early voting starting Sept. 22 it is time to start paying attention and steel yourself in a way that will leave you convinced that once you have cast your vote you are satisfied with your choices. Up for election this year are all members of the Virginia General Assembly, 40 senators and 100 delegates, in new districts as a result of legislative redistricting. To find the district in which you reside, go to https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/redistricting/interactive-map/ and to find the persons seeking election in those districts, go to https://www.elections.virginia.gov/casting-a-ballot/candidate-list/. The state legislative elections will be particularly meaningful this year because the amount of turnover in membership is the greatest I can remember with retirements and primary election outcomes. This election is an intense struggle over control of the legislature. Pay careful attention to the candidates because already it is obvious that there are candidates who are as extreme as any you may have read about in other states. Partisan workers are working hard for there is a recognition that the outcomes in Virginia's elections could be a bellwether for what might happen nationally in 2024.
Other offices that are on the ballot this year, and that are referred to as constitutional offices for they are called for in the state constitution, are Commonwealth’s attorney, clerk of the court, and sheriff.
As though that is not enough for voters to keep up with, there are local offices. In Fairfax County, voters get to elect the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, their local district member of the Board of Supervisors, their local district School Board member, three at-large School Board members, and representatives on the Soil and Water Conservation Board. You can review a sample ballot for your location at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/elections/sample-ballots.
Do not be put off by campaign rhetoric and the endless phone calls, campaign mailings, and commercials. We have a republic that allows us through the ballot box to take part in our own governance. We have a democratic republic. Let’s do all we can to keep it.