First election under Virginia Beach’s new voting system brings changes to city council and school boards
Although election results are still unofficial until they are certified in the coming weeks, preliminary numbers point to upcoming changes at both the Virginia Beach City Council and school board.
Two city council officials and two school board officials have been out with reporting limits since Virginia Beach’s first election. As the dust settles, this new force is in motion that many would like to understand.
The new electoral system divided the city council and school board seats into 10 districts, which house approximately 46,000 people. Only voters residing within the district could vote for the candidates running in that particular district.
It is far away from the city’s long standing system. Traditionally, the Virginia Beach race became known as the “hybrid at-large” system. Those serving on the city council or school board had to live in parts of the city, but each voter could vote for each member.
The change came after a federal court judge ruled the system for a long time “denied equal access to Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians in the electoral and political process.”
If current results hold, the incoming Virginia Beach City Council will be the most diverse in the city’s history. Former councilor Amelia Ross-Hammond as well as political newcomers Jennifer Rouse and Chris Taylor won their race. They, along with incumbent Councilor Sabrina Wooten, will occupy four of the 11 seats held by African Americans.
Council members John Moss and Linwood Branch are both set to walk out of their seats at the end of the year after losing in their new districts, where they had many opponents.
Moss, who has made a name for himself in rallying against tourism investment and tax hikes, will leave city council at the end of the year after serving nearly 18 years. Newcomer Joash Shulman will take his seat.
Branch, who also served on the city council for a decade in the 90s, would be replaced by Worth Remick.
On the Virginia Beach school board, President Caroline Rye and board member Sharon Felton both lost their seats in support of the students’ first candidates.