ALEXANDRIA — In a tale of two counties, Virginia’s Loudoun and Surry counties will play a role in the 2012 election campaign — but at very different levels.
Loudoun, with the nation’s highest median household income ($120,000), has proven to be a bellwether in recent presidential elections. The last time this northern Virginia county backed the loser was 1996, when Bob Dole edged Bill Clinton by fewer than 6,000 votes.
What will happen in this high-end enclave this year? Take a look here.
Meanwile, rural Surry County in southeastern Virginia, with a total population of 7,000 residents, boasts the highest percentage of registered voters.
Nearly 100 percent of the county’s 18-and-older population are on the voting rolls, according to a Watchdog.org analysis, and it arguably tops the list as the most politically engaged locality in the state. Read the story about this homespun community here.
‘Instructional’ spending shortchanged in state
In other news, Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau reported that barely $6 in $10 trickles down to classrooms in the state’s public schools. And that may be inflated.
Of more than $12 billion spent on K-12 education in fiscal 2011, only $7.7 billion was earmarked for “instruction,” the Department of Education said. But the DOE’s definition of instruction liberally includes some non-classroom staffers, such as principals pulling down six-figure salaries.
See which counties spent the smallest and largest percentages on instruction here.
EPA sued over ‘gassing’ of human subjects
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was sued in Virginia over allegations that the agency is conducting “Nazi-style” experiments on older Americans to study the bodily effect of particulate air pollutants.
The EPA studies, dating back to 2004, are continuing in North Carolina under the name, “Captain,” and involve test subjects ages 50-75 sucking on a tube that releases diesel exhaust and other particulate matter.
Filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the American Tradition Institute called the tests a “ghastly” exploitation of ill-informed human subjects, and noted that at least one woman was hospitalized.
An EPA spokeswoman said, “All human exposure studies conducted by (agency) scientists are independently evaluated for safety and ethics, and the results are peer-reviewed.” Read the full story here.
Controversial voter-registration group is baaaack
Finally, returning to the political front, the controversial Voter Participation Center is back in the news.
The group, which had infamously mailed registration forms to deceased individuals and family pets earlier this year, said it sent another 177,000 forms to Virginians this month.
VPC says it’s operating legally now by not “prepopulating” its forms with names and other personal information. The Virginia Constitution states that voter-registration forms must be filled out by applicants, or that applicants must request them.
But with VPC — a partner with Democratic Party stalwarts at the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza — mailing more than 440,000 forms into Virginia so far this year, Republicans have reason to be concerned. See why here.