The votes by Virginians this Tuesday are being watched by political analysts and pundits around the country.
The local elections of 2019 can decide control of the state government or it can signal that problems of Gov. Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats have suffered one scandal too many.
If control the General Assembly in Richmond goes Democratic, it will be heralded as another nail in the coffin of the Republican Party and its embattled president: Donald John Trump.
Such elections, which do not include the governor or other statewide races, generally suffer draw fewer voters than normal but both parties are trying to rally support within their ranks. The GOP controls the state Senate 20-19 and the House 51-48 with one vacancy in each chamber. Democrats gained a lot of seats in the last elections for the General Assembly and have hopes that the trend will continue this year.
GOP delegate Nick Rush, who represents much of Floyd County, tried scare tactics last weekend at the party’s pre-election rally, telling attendees that Democrats wanted to give convicted felons the right to vote while they were still in prison. As with most scare-tactic stunts before an election, Rush substituted hyperbole for facts. Proposals from both Democrats and Republicans have tried to allow convicted felons who have served their time without problems to have their rights restored.
Virginia is one of just three states left who place a lifetime ban on voting rights for felons convicted of a felony. A proposal to lift that ban for those who have served their time and meet other qualifications failed in the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections this past January. Another proposal, by GOP Sen Emmett Hanger of Augusta, to automatically restore the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences and have made all restitutions, is still awaiting hearings before the committee.
A search of the General Assembly database found no legislation seeking to give prisoners the right to vote in Virginia while still incarcerated.
But Rush stoked the fires last week with his claim that prisoners in jails and prisons could be voting for Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Sheriffs throughout the state.
When Rush asked who in the crowd had heard of such legislation, only a couple held up their hands. Rush’s response? “You need to spend more time watching FoxNews.”
Fox, a right-wing partisan “news” channel, is called Faux News by professional journalists and often spreads fake propaganda as “news.”
Sadly, Rush is not alone in using such tactics in politics today. Fact-checking services have found more than 13,000 outright lies by the current president of the United States in his first three years in office. Other elected officials — both Republican and Democrats — have been caught stretching the truth.
Edelman, a marketing communications firm, found in a new study that “only a third of Americans trust their government ‘to do what is right’ — a decline of 14 percentage points from last year.”
The company adds that it has been surveying people around the world about trust for nearly 20 years and “has never recorded such steep drops in trust in the United States.”
“In God We Trust,” goes the motto of the United States. In God, and apparently little else.