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Virginia Beach City Council gives update on new election system

Voters will soon get a letter to try and clarify how the school board and council will be elected this fall.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach voters will soon get a letter to try and clarify how the school board and council will be elected this fall.

The confusion was created by a court decision that ruled the city's at-large election system disadvantages minorities, and a second ruling that said it does not.

On Tuesday, the city council got an update on how the 10-1 system will work this fall.

Inside city hall, council members had a tough discussion about voting rights.

“It’s highly important that we’re transparent in what we’re doing," said Councilwoman Sabrina Wooten. 

Wooten said she is concerned voters will be confused when they head to the polls in November when city elections follow the new 10-1 system. Voters will only be allowed to vote for city council and school board candidates in their districts along with an at-large mayor.

The new 10-1 system reignited a disagreement between Councilmember Aaron Rouse and Mayor Bobby Dyer. Rouse claims the mayor had a meeting about the new voting system that not all council members were invited to. Rouse wanted answers from Dyer.

“The least you can do is say, 'Hey, I apologize everyone should have been contacted,' regardless if you support a 10-1 system or an at-large system. Respect for your colleagues is due Mr. Mayor," said Rouse. 

Dyer fired back, defending the meeting he called "unproductive."

“The point is, it did not come to any type of fruition. It would have come to a full council decision. I am sorry you’re unhappy with the process," said Dyer. 

For some voters, they are also divided as to which election system would best reflect their wishes.

“I think voting for district candidates is going to be very helpful for the people. It’s going to give the residents more say of what goes on in the City of Virginia Beach," said Virginia Beach resident Stephen Johnston. 

“I feel like it wasn’t an issue there needed to be changed, quite frankly. I know there’s some discussion about possibly, well, if they’re not in my district, they are not looking out for me and I didn’t really get that feeling," said Virginia Beach resident Jack Seal. 

City leaders said residents should be getting more clarity soon.

“But every voter in Virginia Beach who’s registered will be receiving a mailing shortly from the city’s voter registrar telling them what precinct they vote at, what that polling location is, and what city council district they live in," said Virginia Beach Deputy City Attorney Christopher Boynton. 

Virginia Beach officials have put all their information about the new voting system and where you can find polling places and districts here

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