Rep. Robert C. Scott, whose 3rd District includes part of Richmond, earns this dubitable award for his opposition to at-large mayoral elections in the City of Richmond.
Scott, a Democrat from Newport News, insists that allowing City of Richmond citizens to directly elect their Mayor “will dilute the current minority voting strength”. His argument is that this would violate the Federal Voting Rights Act.
However, Scott’s own website on the subject states that the Federal Voting Rights Act was passed “to combat instruments of disenfranchisement including physical intimidation and harassment, the use of literacy tests, the poll-tax, English only elections, and racial gerrymandering. These practices resulted in a low registration and voter turnout among minorities and the absence of a significant number of minority elected officials.” His site can be found here.
As it stands, the Richmond City Council elects a mayor, who serves a largely ceremonial role. We all know how well the Richmond City Council has done at maintaining its stellar reputation.
The change that seems likely to occur is that people in the city will all get to vote for a stronger mayor, what’s known as a mayor ‘at-large’. I would argue that the concept of getting to vote for a mayor versus not getting to vote for a mayor fails to violate the Federal Voting Rights Act in that the gist of the law is to encourage voting by minorities. As it stands, minorities don’t vote for mayor. With the change, minorities will vote.
Now, I can see wanting to read the fine print to see if there’s any tricky business going on and all, but to challenge the concept outright and say it’s violating the Voting Rights Act is over the top.
All in all, Scott’s opposition to an at-large mayor, at this stage seems counterproductive and grandstandish. He may have his heart in the right place, but has failed to take a step back and review what he’s actually doing. If he really wants to encourage minorities to vote, he has to first allow everyone to vote.