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New system in Virginia Beach for this year's elections

With early voting underway across Hampton Roads, this year is different for Virginia Beach voters with the new 10-1 voting system.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Just a few weeks before Election Day, people are making their voices heard at the polls early this year, especially those in Virginia Beach who have a few more rules to follow.

2022 is the first year Virginia Beach voters are seeing the new 10-1 system, which split Virginia Beach into 10 districts of approximately equal voting age population. 

Instead of voting in an "at-large" system for every member of council, voters will cast their ballot only for the candidate representing their individual district, in addition to the mayor for at-large voting.

It's not just for the city council. This new system also applies to the Virginia Beach City Public School Board candidates.

RELATED: Virginia Beach voters can expect changes at the polls in November

"It's important people are represented in their district and making sure the council person lives in the district they represent is important, too," said early voter advocate, Melissa Lukeson, outside of Building 14. 

Through redistricting, the city has created three minority opportunity districts. That means they drew districts 4, 7 and 10 in a way that gives minority members a better opportunity to elect a candidate who shares their political beliefs.

Virginia Beach NAACP branch President, Dr. Karen Hills Pruden said she pushed to implement this new system when city officials first released the data. She said not everyone in each district has the same household income and needs.

"All of these things, unemployment rate is pretty much the same throughout the city, but net worth, there are big disparities," Pruden explained.

This is why she said she feels it's best for people to vote for those who are also in the same district and experiencing a similar lifestyle.

RELATED: 2022 Midterm Election Voter Guide

"If you live in a district that is a food desert because there's not many grocery stores, then you would be a cheerleader for bringing in businesses where their specialties are groceries. When you live it every day, then you are more responsive to getting the change needed within your district." 

She said she wants people to take this new system as an opportunity to educate themselves on the candidates and to get to the polls early.

"My thing is educate yourself and then use your vote as your voice," said Pruden. "You lose the voice of the district when you do at-large, so after this election, the people of the district have spoken by way of voting who it is they want to represent them and that's the message I want to go forward."

One thing Virginia Beach voters have to keep in mind is that the polling location you are used to going to during election season may be different. 

Voters should have received a card in the mail identifying their election districts, voting precinct names, and polling locations.

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