Your district, your vote: Virginia Beach’s new election system

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Other News

Changes were recently made to Virginia Beach’s election system. In this year’s election on November 8, voters will only be able to select a city Council and a School Board representative who represents the specific district where a given voter resides. The previous system allowed voters across the entire city to vote for all city Council and School Board members. In the new 10-1 ward system, the city is divided into 10 districts of approximately equal population, with the Mayor’s position remaining an at-large seat that is chosen by all Virginia Beach voters in 2024.

This year, voters residing in Districts 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, and 10 will be able to cast a vote for their choice for the City Council and School Board representative in their district. Additionally, there will be a special election for city Council District 1. Voters who reside in Districts 3, 5, and 7 will not have a city Council or School Board candidate on the ballot this November.

This change to the local election system does not impact any state or federal representation. Other local elections such as the Sheriff, Clerk of Court, city Treasurer, Commonwealth’s Attorney, or Commissioner of the Revenue are not affected by this change.

How we got to this point is a long and complex story (the full details of which can be found at, but here’s the short version: Last year, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that the city’s former election system violated Section 2 of the Federal Voting Rights Act by diluting the votes of minority groups and determined that the remedy for this violation was to impose a 10-district ward system that includes three “minority opportunity districts.” These new minority opportunity districts, where non-white voters make up a majority of a district’s population, are Districts 4, 7, and 10.

The city appealed this decision (while continuing to implement the 10-1 system as ordered by the District Court) and continued to assert its viewpoint that the former system did not unlawfully dilute the voting rights of minority voters and that minority groups are not politically cohesive in Virginia Beach (meaning that the city’s various minority communities are politically diverse and do not vote for the same political candidates and causes). At the same time the court case was unfolding, legislation was passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam in 2021 (HB2198), which changed the city’s former system by making its seven previous residence districts into ward districts. The city asserted at trial and on appeal that the state legislative change rendered the court case moot.

In July of this year, a three-judge panel on the U.S Court of Appeals agreed with the city that the District Court had erred in its rulings and that HB2198 rendered the court case moot. Therefore, although the city is no longer bound to the District Court’s orders (including the order imposing the 10-1 ward system), the decision from the Court of Appeals came too late to implement a system other than the 10-1 ward system for the 2022 elections. Any consideration of a new system by city Council will occur in 2023.

Voters may determine their district, which candidates will appear on the ballot, and their polling location by visiting There is also information about the new districts and how the new system will impact residents, along with a digital toolkit available in English, Spanish, and Tagalog to help inform others about this change.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater champions a thriving Jewish community locally, in Israel, and around the world and leverages the strength of the diverse and vibrant Jewish community to promote a just and democratic society by leading, convening, educating, and advocating. The JCRC, therefore, works to ensure that all voters are well informed and have all pertinent details when choosing a candidate.

Anyone in Virginia who is unsure of their polling place should visit

Christopher S. Boynton,
Deputy City Attorney, City of Virginia Beach