State Senate Nixes Municipal Election Delay

Elections in Hamilton, Lovettsville, Middleburg, Purcellville and Round Hill be held on May 5 as scheduled, for now.

During the Virginia General Assembly’s veto session on Wednesday, the House of Delegates voted 47-45 to approve Gov. Ralph Northam’s amendment to the state budget bill to delay the elections until Nov. 3—the same day as the 2020 General Election. However, the state Senate voted to kill the amendment.

The governor proposed the delay as part of an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The elections could still be delayed if Northam uses his executive authority to push them back 14 days, until May 19. At that point, local governing bodies, as allowed by Virginia law, could petition the Virginia Supreme Court for an additional extension not to exceed 30 days from the original election date. The Purcellville Town Council voted last week to do just that, if Northam mandates a delay.

Even if the elections were to be delayed until June 4, that would still be six days before Northam’s current stay-at-home order expires.

Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27), whose Senate district includes the Town of Middleburg, said during deliberations on Wednesday that it would be wrong to throw out the absentee ballots that have already been cast and to start over in November. She also argued there would be administrative problems by running two “totally separate elections” on same day—municipal elections and the U.S. presidential election.

Sen. John Cosgrove (R-14) agreed with Vogel, noting that delaying the elections six months would “confuse the heck out of all the electorate.”

“There are other ways to go about this,” he said.

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) spoke in favor of a delay until November, to protect against more Virginians contracting the virus. He noted that COVID-19 is killing 22 Virginians each day—a statistic he bolstered by pointing out that the entire Virginia Senate would be dead from the virus in 48 hours at that rate.

“Pretty soon COVID is going to be the number one cause of death in the United States of America,” he said. “We’re in a pandemic, this hasn’t happened since 1918.”

Northam made his request for the General Assembly to delay the May elections on April 8. The same day, he used his executive authority to push the Republican primary election from June 9 to June 23. His request drew concern from many of Loudoun’s 23 Town Council and five mayoral candidates. It also prompted some towns to take a stance. In addition to Purcellville’s vote to direct its town staff to petition for a 30-day delay, the Hamilton Town Council on April 13 unanimously supported Northam’s request.

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) argued in favor of delaying the May 5 town elections to November during the General Assembly’s April 22 veto session while wearing a green bandana over his face to protect against the spread of coronavirus.
The Virginia House of Delegates met outdoors during the General Assembly’s April 22 veto session to better protect its members from contracting COVID-19.

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