State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Brooks Braun

A new generation of poll workers

by Brooks C. Braun

On election day, November 8th, 2011, more than 30 students from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) worked as Officers of Election in Henrico County, VA on behalf of the Tidewater Roots Poll Project (TRPP). TRPP is a project organized by William & Mary students to inspire college students to make a commitment to civic duty and participatory democracy by becoming the next generation of Virginia poll volunteers. We sat down to talk with three of these students to hear what they had to say about their experience.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you heard about TRPP.

TEREZA: My name is Tereza McInnes, I’m an international studies major at VCU and I heard about the Tidewater Roots Poll Project through a VCU e-mail. I was really interested in it because all I’ve heard is that it’s something that ‘old people do’ and I kinda wanted to see what exactly it was about. And I guess I also heard that, you know, there was money involved.

DAVID: My name is David, I’m a 28 year old full time student at VCU. I’m in my fifth year. I have a dual degree in criminal justice and psychology with a concentration in pre-physical therapy. I got an e-mail from VCU saying that they were recruiting. I get 15 to 20 e-mails a day so I just breezed through it and moved on to the next e-mail. Later, one of my other friends, Thomas Kidwell, said that he had spoken to you on campus. He mentioned the e-mail, at which point I went back to read it again. My interest was piqued so I went ahead and put my name in the pool.

GABRIELA: My name is Maria Gabriela Ochoa Perez. I’m a freshman at VCU and I’m studying communication arts. I’m 18. I was born in Venezuela and I became a citizen 2 years ago. I’m really interested in the governmental system here in America because I experienced firsthand in Venezuela what it was like under a less democratic system. I was introduced to the project by this interesting looking gentleman standing in the cold in front of the VCU commons one day. I had already tried to figuring out how to do that kind of thing; poll work. I remember having talked to my government teacher in high school about doing it. I just hadn’t yet taken the time to contact the Montgomery county registrar’s office to sign up. So I was really interested when that nice gentleman told me what TRPP was doing. I mean this is something totally different than just voting. Working at the polls puts you right in the middle of the process and enables you to learn more about it. Continue reading

A State Divided

Virginia’s split precinct problem

by Brooks Braun

The 2012 election will soon be upon Virginia. If past elections and the current political climate are reliable guides, the level of participation will once again place enormous pressure on the election administrative apparatus. Will Virginia be prepared? One ominous reason to be skeptical is the recent explosion of split precincts following from the2011 redistricting process.

Split precincts are a normal outcome of every redistricting process. The precinct itself is usually the smallest unit of administration in an election district. However, when the General Assembly draws new district lines that do not follow old precinct lines, a split precinct is created.  In such a precinct, voters don’t all vote for the same offices. For example, some voters in the precinct might vote for a representative to fill state senate seat A, while other voters, in the same precinct, vote for a representative to fill state senate seat B. Precincts can also be split more than once (once by a concessional district line and once more by a state senate line, for instance). It’s like having multiple precincts in one. Continue reading

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