Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Ballot initiatives: Voters say “yes” to first responders, “no” to right-to-work

Virginia voters said “yes” to first responders and “no” to right-to-work protections Tuesday.

Two proposed constitutional amendments were on the ballot and voters split the difference between them.

The ballot question that passed with nearly 80 percent of the vote will give local governments the option of creating a real estate tax exemption for the surviving spouse of first responders who are killed in the line of duty. To qualify for the tax exemption, the surviving spouse must use the property as a principal place of residence and cannot remarry.

If the surviving spouse remarries, he or she loses the tax exemption for the property.

The second proposed constitutional amendment, which got only about 46 percent of the vote, would have updated the state constitution to include right-to-work protections. Virginia has had right-to-work legislation on the books since 1947.

Under the existing right-to-work law, it is illegal to deny employment to someone who doesn’t belong to a labor union or other organization. It’s also illegal to require employees to belong to a labor union as a condition of employment. And it’s illegal for a labor union to acquire an employment monopoly in any such enterprise.

Only 9.24 percent of Virginians, or 774,423 citizens, were alive before this legislation became law in 1947, according to estimates by the U.S. Census. That means most Virginians have already been adhering to right-to-work laws their entire lives.

Adding the proposed law to the state constitution would have solidified the protection, since legislation can be repealed, and made it harder to revoke.

All state election results, including ballot initiatives, are considered unofficial until a formal results review is completed and all provisional ballots are counted.

Update Wednesday 12:28 p.m.: Results from 98.95 percent of Commonwealth precincts are in for Proposed Constitutional Amendment Question 1. According to the Virginia Department of Elections, 53.62 percent of citizens, or 1,941,687 ballots cast, voted “No” on the ballot measure. Results from 98.98 percent of Commonwealth precincts are in for Proposed Constitutional Amendment Question 2. According to VDOE, 79.59 percent of citizens, or an overwhelming 2,917,370 ballots cast, voted “Yes” on the ballot measure.

Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley
Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post,, and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.

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