This election is different from prior years, thanks to a redistricting process that created more competitive seats than ever before. That means there’s an unprecedented opportunity to put people in office who will best serve Virginians on many of the issues we care most about – issues like reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the right to vote.
Just how many seats are we talking? Every single seat in the House and the Senate is up for re-election in November. That’s 140 General Assembly seats.
At our last count, 11 incumbents in the Senate and 34 in the House have chosen not to run in this election. That means Virginians have a unique opportunity to change the face of our General Assembly by electing candidates that believe in bettering Virginia, not moving it backwards.
And that’s not all. Because many districts have been redrawn, your voting district may differ from past elections. Some incumbents have been redrawn into the same district together, throwing familiar faces into contests with each other and upending the overall makeup of the House and Senate.
With all of these changes this year, being an informed voter is more important than ever. Before you vote, confirm your district and polling location by clicking here. Research your candidates and their positions on the issues you care about. There are 29 incumbents running for the state Senate and 66 incumbents running for the House. Your former representative may have moved districts, so there may be new candidates you’ll need to get to know.
And getting to know the candidates is crucial with so many of our rights on the ballot. Protecting our rights depends on getting the right people in office. We need representatives who:
- Protect and expand abortion access. The right to abortion is a decision best made by people who can get pregnant, their families, and doctors. Abortion is legal in Virginia, but this election could change that. During the 2023 General Assembly session, every anti-abortion bill was defeated. But if an anti-abortion majority is elected to the Senate and the House, bills restricting access to reproductive care could be introduced and passed next year, harming people who can get pregnant.
- Protect and expand voting rights. Voting is a right, and every Virginian should have equal and easy access to the ballot. Along with Protect Democracy and WilmerHale, we filed a lawsuit this year challenging the felony disenfranchisement provision in the Virginia constitution. Everyone deserves a voice in their community, and our hope is that this suit restores the voting rights of Virginians convicted of felonies. But it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to restore voting rights. And unfortunately, Virginians’ voting rights are under attack in many ways. There have been multiple attempts to close voting locations that primarily serve Black, Brown and lower-income communities. We need lawmakers who will stand up for voting rights and defend democracy.
- Protect trans and nonbinary students. During the last General Assembly, an unprecedented number of anti-trans bills were introduced. Luckily, all were defeated, but with the wrong candidates in office we’ll see more of the same – especially at the school board level. The Virginia Department of Education’s 2023 Model Policies blatantly harm the trans and non-binary students the policies were originally created to protect. Since most school students can’t vote, they’re relying on US to elect representatives who will make school a safe place for all young people.
- Protect the right to learn. Classroom censorship is wrong, full stop. Book bans and rewriting history hinder learning in our Commonwealth and impede students’ First Amendment rights. But misguided school boards have begun purging so-called ‘sexually explicit’ books, disproportionately targeting books about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and people of color. Every community needs representatives who will work with parents, teachers, and librarians to create truthful and comprehensive learning environments where all students can see themselves reflected.
I love Virginia. I’ve moved out of the Commonwealth before, but have always found my way back. I am proud to call Virginia my home. And I want to stay proud. I want to live in a Virginia that puts its residents first, that says yes to reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ rights and says no to voter disenfranchisement and classroom censorship.
There’s a simple way you can create a Virginia we can all be proud of – vote! Seize the opportunity this election represents. Don’t leave the issues you care the most about to the voters with whom you profoundly disagree.
Instead, vote your values. Early voting starts on September 22. Find the latest on legislative and local races here.
I’ll have on my “I Voted” sticker. I hope you will, too.