Once upon a time when scheduling a public forum in a non-election year a U.S. congressman would be lucky to attract anything near a full house.
That’s not the case with Rep. Tom Garrett, Virginia Republican. Not in 2017. Not given the controversy surrounding his previous town halls, several held online. Not on the heels of arguably the most divided presidential campaign in modern times.
This week, rather than wondering how many constituents might show up at his upcoming town hall, the congressman has taken the extraordinary step of joining the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School in releasing a “ticketing and attendance plan” — namely a lottery — for the March 31 event in Charlottesville.
“Most notably, the event organizers were able to increase capacity at this event to 230 people,” writes Garrett spokesman Andrew Griffin. “Fifty of those will be students from the Frank Batten School and the remaining 180 will be chosen by lottery.”
Here’s how the lottery works:
1. Those wishing to enter the lottery will be allowed to register via the following link: http://tickets.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu/single/EventDetail.aspx?p=6519. Entrants will be required to submit their name, address, and email in order to verify residence in the 5th Congressional District. Entrants will only allowed to enter once as the list will be scrubbed for duplicates prior to selection.
2. The lottery will close today (Thursday, March 23) at 5 pm
3. The list of entrants will be scrubbed for duplicates and for entrants who do not live in the 5th Congressional District.
4. This list will be submitted to a third party draw service where 200 names will be randomly selected.180 of which will be awarded a ticket while the remaining 20 will be put on a wait list.
5. The recipients will be notified on Friday, March 24, by 5 p.m.
6. Recipients can pick up tickets in person at the UVA arts box office from 12 to 5 pm from Monday March 27 to Friday March 31. Identification is required to confirm identity and residence.
7. Wait list tickets will be available at Garrett Hall starting at 5:30 pm on March 31.
8. The forum will begin promptly at 6 p.m.
Garrett’s office says that during the forum attendees may submit questions by writing them down on a form with their name and town of residence. The moderator will select questions at random and invite the person asking the question to ask it directly to the congressman. Follow up questions will be at the discretion of the moderator.
“No subject is off limits,” states Griffin. “We are all looking forward to a respectful and inclusive event that brings the community together to address a variety of issues.”