Va. ballot question: Eminent domain

WASHINGTON – On Nov. 6, voters will weigh in on critical issues facing regional states, including the Virginia government’s right to seize private property and the issues of gay marriage, tuition for undocumented immigrants and expanded gambling in Maryland.

WTOP has compiled additional information on some of these topics. Take a moment to learn a bit more about what will be on the ballot this fall.

Virginia Statewide Ballot

Question 1: Eminent Domain
Virginia Bill of Rights Amendment

This constitutional amendment affects the government’s use of “eminent domain,” or the ability to seize private property for public use.

It would encompass the following:

  • The government could not take private land and give it to another private entity for a purpose like economic development or private enterprise. Exceptions for taking property can be made for utilities and properties deemed a public nuisance. (Editor’s note: This section has been modified for clarification.)
  • The compensation for taking land is expanded to be “no less than the value of the property taken, lost profits and lost access, and damages to the residue caused by the taking.”
  • Ensure that private property is a “fundamental” right, and that it cannot be taken unless it is necessary.

How it will appear on the ballot:

    “Shall Section 11 of Article I (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution of Virginia be amended (i) to require that eminent domain only be exercised where the property taken or damaged is for public use and, except for utilities or the elimination of a public nuisance, not where the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development; (ii) to define what is included in just compensation for such taking or damaging of property; and (iii) to prohibit the taking or damaging of more private property than is necessary for the public use?

More Information:

Opponents of the measure say this will unnecessarily burden the Virginia taxpayer with additional expenses. The Virginia Department of Transportation says this will cost an extra $100 million each year by making transportation projects more expensive. Learn more in this report.

Vocal proponent Ken Cuccinelli, the state attorney general and a Republican, says that money is already accounted for.

“This isn’t going to cost one penny,” he said in a recent interview. “This $100 million VDOT is waving around at you, someone is already paying for it.”

He compared how those funds are currently spent to “stealing.”

The Virginia Farm Bureau supports the measure, emphasizing the importance of specifying when the government may take private land. Such circumstances would include widening a road and building a school or a hospital, according to a video posted by the bureau in July.

For more information, visit the Virginia State Board of Elections website, where you can find an informational brochure and an additional explanation.

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