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Virginians Say 'Yes' to Questions 1 and 2

Changes to eminent domain and veto session scheduling pass by wide margins.

Virginia residents voted to pass two amendments to the Virginia Constitution when they went out to the polls Tuesday.

About 75 percent of voters, more than 2.3 million people, voted "yes" to amending the state's eminent domain policies. The measure will prohibit local governments from using eminent domain for economic development and job creation. 

The measure was a bit less popular in localities such as Fairfax County, where 62 percent of voters decided to pass the amendment.

Question 2, which will allow the General Assembly to postpone its veto session in the event of scheduling conflicts of religious holidays, was much more popular. About 82 percent of voters, or 2.6 million people, said yes to the amendment.

Update (12:05 a.m. Nov. 7, 2012) Fairfax County residents also voted "yes" to both Questions 1 and 2 by a wide margin on Tuesday.

Approximately 63 percent of Fairfax County voters approved of the eminent domain amendment and more than 80 percent approved of allowing the General Assembly to delay its veto session.

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Update (9:25 p.m.) Fredericksburg City handily voted "yes" to both Questions 1 and 2. 

Approximately 67 percent of voters approved of the eminent domain amendment and more than 80 percent of voters approved of allowing the General Assembly to delay its veto session.

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Update: Sen. Barbara Favola told Patch today that if  the eminent domain amendment passes, the government will have to pay property owners the fair market value for their land plus anticipated lost profits on the property and that taxpayers will have to shoulder the burden of those costs.

"The cost would be exorbitant," Favola said. "It was the kind of thing people pushed because it looked good on a political brochure. It was something they wanted to wrap themselves around. ...We had people who got on a bandwagon."

She called the proposed amendment "bad public policy" but predicts that voters will pass it.

Original: When Virginians go out to the polls Tuesday, they’ll vote on two Virginia constitutional amendments.

The first amendment, known as Question 1, would prohibit local governments from using eminent domain for economic development and job creation. Instead, the seizure of private land would be strictly for public use, such as parks and school buildings. The amendment also requires full compensation of the owner.

The second amendment, or Question 2, would allow the General Assembly to delay its veto session by up to one week in order for the session to avoid interfering with events such as religious holidays.

Patch will update how residents are voting on each question in the table below. Check back at the end of the night to see if the amendments passed or failed, and how your area voted.

These are final, unofficial results from the State Board of Elections; absentee and provisional ballots had not been counted as of 1 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7. Additionally, in Manassas Park City, the Precinct One had not reported results by 1 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Statewide Results

Amendments Yes Percent No Percent Question 1 2,368,845 74.73 800,895 25.27 Question 2 2,610,911 82.03 571,867 17.97

Results by Locality

Question 1: Eminent Domain

Locality Yes Percent No
Percent Alexandria 30,571 56.82 23,230 43.18 Arlington 44,789 55.27 36,242 44.73 Fairfax 252,847 62.77 149,956 37.23 Fredericksburg 7,076 67.16 3,460 32.84 Loudoun 103,910 69.61 45,366 30.39 Prince William 106,852 79.98 26,750 20.02 Manassas City 11,027 76.77 3,337 23.23 Manassas Park  1,680 75.27 552 24.73

Question 2: Veto Session

Locality Yes Percent No
Percent Alexandria 45,425 85.57 7,661 14.43 Arlington 67,242 84.74 12,111 15.26 Fairfax 319,520 80.45 77,660 19.55 Fredericksburg 8,524 80.40 2,078 19.60 Loudoun 119,032 81.20 27,568 18.80 Prince William 122,756 84.47 22,561 15.53 Manassas City 10,585 76.64 3,227 23.36 Manassas Park  1,777 79.44 460 20.56
Nate McKenzie November 05, 2012 at 09:29 PM
William - what is the % required for a constitutional amendment to pass?
Drew Hansen (Editor) November 05, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Hey Nate. An amendment just needs a majority "yes" to pass. Virginia has considered something like 14 amendments since 2000 and all have passed.
Skip Endale November 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Thanks to William for covering the basics of this proposed amendment to the constitution. I accidently voted for it without really knowing what it means. Eminent domain issues are relatively rare and so I am wondering why VA is considering a constitutional amendment. Interesting also that Bell is the sponsor of this bill and he has high ambitions. There is also possibly a huge case about eminent domain in Southern VA concerning the Biscuit Run property, a multi-million dollar development that is asking for tax credits yet has not paid taxes on time. Also, interesting, the fact that some properties may possibly be lost due to the expansion of the toll road and/or the Silverline. So assuming owners will be compensated, will they be compensated at current market value? What if future value of the surrounding neighborhoods, say, doubles in the near term how would the state of VA assess a proper valuation on these eminent domains? And why, most of all, would that require a change to the constitution - are we expecting a rash of eminent domain issues to come forward? If so, we definitely need some time to hash out what this really means. Just sneaking eminent domain onto the ballot with vague promises of compensation does not appear to be the right way to solve this problem. If given the choice to turn the clock back I would have voted against it. Maybe you should. PS. Eminent domains are not restricted to property, it may apply to a trade secret, a patent etc
Drew Hansen (Editor) November 06, 2012 at 02:07 AM
A comment was deleted for violating our terms of use.
Mark Williams November 06, 2012 at 03:13 AM
These are excellent questions. The Virginia eminent domain ballot item actually does not prohibit very much of anything. It merely establishes a different (and much higher) valuation level for business, vs. residential, property takings. Bear in mind that, under Virginia's Constitution (including the 99% that isn't proposed for amendment) will still permit State and local government bodies to determine that a taking is a public necessity, and the Virginia Ciruit Court is required to defer to that determination absent extraordinary evidence that a private litigant probably could never accrete and present.
Tomika November 06, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Glad i came to make sure and understand what the question was about before i went to vote. Thanks
Nate McKenzie November 06, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Thanks for the info Drew. I'm kind of surprised the bar is that low.
Edward Robertson November 06, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Mob rule! :)
T Ailshire November 07, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I don't understand how a politician's OPINION constitutes an update. Sounds to me like a political ad.
Ann H Csonka November 07, 2012 at 09:08 AM
Private property rights are important, and localities MAY take unfair advantage of powers of eminent domain by using it for marginal or debatable purposes other than obvious public use. (1) Public uses such as parks, roads, schools are okay. (2) Paying fair market value for a property is okay. Taxpayers should pay landowners fairly when their land is taken under eminent domain. HOWEVER, (3) how in the world is it fair to taxpayers to compensate owners for the land PLUS compensating for ANTICIPATED LOST PROFITS of the owner. Good grief, that could be any fantasy of projected use the property owner chooses to invent to get more compensation. NOT okay. (4) If Atty. General Ken Cuccinelli is supporting/promoting this, I am suspect because he tends to go overboard on his pet issues and be exceedingly litigious. Or is he just lining up legal work when he does not hold elective office? Or what? We voted NO because of number 3 above, i.e., not a justifiable use of taxpayer money. Plus #4 -- if Mr. Cuccinelli is for it, we probably do not agree with whatever it is. Even though there are brief descriptions, it is too bad that voters do not have much sense of the ramifications of an amendment like this! Yes, the item has been listed and noted, but no one seems to have really made a case for or against it that would explain situations reasonably to voters. Oh, well. We should be glad we don't have to deal with the extensive and detailed items on Florida ballots!
Lee Hernly November 07, 2012 at 12:26 PM
As usual, Mr. Williams misleads with his comments above, In 2007, Virginia and 40 other states enacted legislation to safeguard property rights at the state level as a backlash against the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 2005 Kelo v. New London ruling. Question 1 on the ballot goes further, amending the Virginia Constitution to restrict the use of eminent domain to public projects, as originally intended. Private land could still be condemned for bridges, schools, fire houses, roads, and a myriad of other public uses, but not to hand over to another private entity to build a shopping center or apartment building just because the new project would generate more tax revenue. And yes, why shouldn't businesses who planned to be open for many more years be compensated for lost income? We've seen eminent domain abuse right here in Alexandria. Government officials should not be allowed to condemn private land just so a developer can make a buck off it and share the ill-gotten gains with them in the form of higher tax revenue and donations to their campaign war chests.
Andrea Scamardo November 07, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Ref: Lost profits - In Texas in the Brazos River Bottom - an area known for its rich farmland, Union Pacific Railroad is planning to take 1,000 acres of this farmland to build a huge rail yard. These farms have been owned by 20 or so families for generations, and these people depend on the income every year from the crops that are raised on these farms. So making UP pay for lost benefits for a lifetime is not unrealistic. Union Pacific is not even a public company, and they are planning to take this land just because they want it - not for the public good.
Mario Vittes November 07, 2012 at 02:50 PM
How does this have anything to do eminent domain?
Nate McKenzie November 07, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Mario - the amendment had a statement buried in the actual constitutional text that property owners who had property seized under eminent domain are now compensated for lost profits. Andreas statement is just an oddly worded way of saying that in TX there is a current case that is similar. Not the most compelling example in my book but that's neither here nor there. Also not sure that a constitution that can be changed by a simple majority vote is really that strong of a document, which is also neither here nor there.
Martin Tarbox November 07, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Compensation for loss of profits is both right and good. If it seems an undue burden on taxpayers, then perhaps there will be more hesitation and deliberation before exercising eminent domain. There SHOULD be an urgent and compelling reason for seizing private property, and it SHOULD be difficult. And if, as a taxpayer, you don't like having to pay more for the government to seize pprivate property, then you should discourage the government from doing so unless absolutely necessary. Beats me how anyone can possibly think that making it more difficult for the government to seize private property and protecting citizen's private property rights is a bad thing. I would surmise because a small percentage (as evidenced by voting results) are of the "it will never happen to me" school of thought.
Martin Tarbox November 07, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Hear, hear!
Martin Tarbox November 07, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Rest easy, Skip. You did the right thing.
million November 07, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Right, a simple majority will pass the amendment but first it must pass two successive state legislative sessions before it can reach the ballot. It passed the Senate twice which is typically the bastion for minority rights so 'mob rule' does not account for the entire process.
T Ailshire November 07, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Thank you for distilling this argument so cogently. Adding the prohibition to our Constitution ensures that a few-person swing in the General Assembly each year does not undo what Virginians want - to respect private property.
J. Fraser November 07, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Why are constitutional amendments approved so readily? I can't believe that many voters had thoroughly considered the implications of either one?
T Ailshire November 08, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Readily? These have each had to go through the General Assembly process TWICE before being placed on the ballots. They're TWO YEARS old. Anyone paying attention has had plenty of time to consider.
J. Fraser November 08, 2012 at 02:51 PM
I didn't mean the legislature, I meant the people who probably did not know that the amendments were on there and cast a vote one way or another. I would have left them blank if I hadn't looked into the issues. What people pay attention to is an important, but different, topic.
T Ailshire November 08, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Those people, then, are not paying attention to what the General Assembly does. (Which is part of the argument why the Eminent Domain question needed to be codified in the Constitution.)
Skip Endale November 08, 2012 at 06:02 PM
... and why after the vote has passed????
Mario Vittes November 09, 2012 at 06:31 PM
The standard definition of "eminent domain" requires that the property be taken for public use. A private company taking land for private purposed would not meet the definition. Could the law allow it? Maybe. But still it wouldn't be called "eminent domain". That'd be something else.
T Ailshire November 09, 2012 at 07:47 PM
But Mario, recall the Kelo decision took private property and delivered it to another private entity. The "public use" excuse was that the community as a whole would benefit from redevelopment, even though the developer never obtained financing and the project never materialized. Thus, our Constitution needs to ensure such a bastardization of "public benefit" cannot happen in Virginia.
Harlan Wahlert November 20, 2012 at 12:36 AM
The person in office has old money, and LAND so now when WE the people tell the elected officials (person in. office) (i.e.,In 1979 my 1/4 Acre 5000 but now tax bill has it at 100,000. So if the tax payer was to get my land from the courts. They pay not the 5000 but 100,000 plus what future value. and what that means is if your in the elected officials pocket or it there land tax pay buying is by the check be unlimited,but if it the tax pay Joe schmoe getting the funds it be limited to the future that made up to be way less of the funds like 150,000, not the 1.2 mil the elected officials.) I hope you get my point. You get my point that the tax pay just payed more that you voted in.
Harlan Wahlert November 20, 2012 at 12:38 AM
send it tome please Harlan.Wahlert@aol.com
Harlan Wahlert November 20, 2012 at 12:41 AM
The person in office has old money, and LAND so now when WE the people tell the elected officials (person in. office) (i.e.,In 1979 my 1/4 Acre 5000 but now tax bill has it at 100,000. So if the tax payer was to get my land from the courts. They pay not the 5000 but 100,000 plus what future value. and what that means is if your in the elected officials pocket or it there land tax pay buying is by the check be unlimited,but if it the tax pay Joe schmoe getting the funds it be limited to the future that made up to be way less of the funds like 150,000, not the 1.2 mil the elected officials.) I hope you get my point. You get my point that the tax pay just payed more that you voted in.
Harlan Wahlert November 20, 2012 at 12:44 AM
The person in office has old money, and LAND so now when WE the people tell the elected officials (person in. office) (i.e.,In 1979 my 1/4 Acre 5000 but now tax bill has it at 100,000. So if the tax payer was to get my land from the courts. They pay not the 5000 but 100,000 plus what future value. and what that means is if your in the elected officials pocket or it there land tax pay buying is by the check be unlimited,but if it the tax pay Joe schmoe getting the funds it be limited to the future that made up to be way less of the funds like 150,000, not the 1.2 mil the elected officials.) I hope you get my point. You get my point that the tax pay just payed more that you voted in.

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