Not everything is about race

Published 6:18 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

In response to John Edwards’ column (“Republic hangs in balance as voting rights erode,” June 13), election issues are at the forefront of modern discourse. Whether voting rights, or voting integrity, there’s a balance to be made.

We rely on our public officials to strike balance that reflects the electorate. Much ado has been made by some who learned that private citizens exercised their rights as citizens of the commonwealth by requesting ballot petitions under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  Those citizens were merely trying to ensure that the standards prescribed under Virginia law were followed.

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I FOIA’d a petition that I accepted signatures for, ensuring that it met the mark for approval by the registrar. Unfortunately, certain elected officials — like Smithfield Councilwoman Valerie Butler — appear to make everything about race. Recently, Councilwoman Butler, on a Facebook page she has campaigned on, accused individuals who had FOIA’d ballot petitions of engaging in a “witch hunt” into Black candidates. Unfortunately, she did not have her facts straight.

It’s important to me — and other members of our community — that our elected officials are able to follow simple instructions that allow them to be on the ballot. If we cannot rely on them satisfying that minimal duty, how can we rely on them diligently exercising their power on our behalf? The councilwoman seems convinced that everything is about race, but it is not. The petition that I FOIA’d was for Mark Wooster — who is not Black — but who I would encourage every responsible citizen of District 4 to vote for in November.

The councilwoman eventually admitted that she was misinformed — but not before damage was done to the reputations of those citizens, like me, who had the right to exercise their statutory rights.


Heidi Swartz