Democratic Party officials and a representative of the League of Women Voters called on the General Assembly today to put party labels on election ballots in Virginia to end confusion in the mind of voters.
Both Republican and Democratic officials complained at the time of the general election last fall that ballots used in may urban areas of the state misled voters as to the party identification of many candidates.
The confusion resulted from the listing of candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, not identified by party, next to candidates for President and Vice President, who were identified by party.
In Northern Virginia, for instance, Vincent F. Callhan, the Republican candidate for the U.S. House in the 10th district, was listed next to the U.S. Labor Party presidential candidate, Rep. Joseph L. Fisher, the Democratic candidate in the 10th, was listed next to the American Party candidate.
The controversy over the 1976 ballot gave added impetus to arguments made at a hearing before the House Privileges and Elections Committee for passage of a bill requiring party identification of candidates on Virginia ballots.
"All we ask is that (Democratic Rep.) Joe Fisher not be indentified as a member of the American Party and (Republican) Vince Callahan as a member of the Labor Party," Emilie Miller, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Party said.
Miller said confusion over last year's ballot led the Fairfax Democratics to print 225,000 sample ballots at a cost of $3,000 for distribution to voters. The samples listed all candidates of all parties and identified them with party or independent labels, she said.
Dorothy Niewig of the League of Women Voters, State Democratic Party Chairman Joseph L. Fitzpatrick and Del. Ira M. Lechner (D-Arlington), a candidate for lieutenant governor, were among others who testified for the bill.
Lechner siadd, "The people of Virginia want to know the party of a candidate. I have traveled 100,000 miles throughout Virginia in the last year and everywhere I go people ask, "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?"
Party identification of candidates is proposal that has been made in the General Assemly for years and always rejected by a coaltion of Republicans and conservative Democrats.
Many conservative Democrats in the Assembly prefer to run campaigns independently of statewide and national Democratic tickets, which have been generally unsuccessful in Virginia in recent years.
Republicans, on the other hand, do not want to strengthen the chances of Democratic candidates by letting them use the label of the party that has dominated state politics for more than a century.
In other legislative developments today, Northern Virginia members of the Assembly discussed inconclusively several proposals affecting mass transit planning and funding and both houses of the Assembly agreed to extend the 30-day legislative session to 52 days. The resolution set adjournment for March 4.
The Northern Virginia caucus heard local government officials from Washington's Virginia suburbs express strong reservations about a proposal to transfer transportation planning authority from cities and counties to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (VNTC).
The transfer is proposed in a bill that would reconstitute the NVTC in a way that would make it more nearly resemble an agency of the state than a coalition of local governments.
There appeared to be general agreement within the caucus on another bill amending authorization to impose a sales tax plan on gasoline in Northern Virginia. The bill revises a tax plan adopted last year but never implemented because the Fairfax City Council refused to ratify it. The amendments would remove the requirement that all Northern Virginia jurisdictions approve the tax before it can be imposed in any city or county.