Local legislators pushing back on proposed election delay

Virginia covid-19
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Gov. Ralph Northam is pushing for local elections scheduled for May 5 to be moved to November. He’s getting some pushback on that.

“I support delaying the election until June, to be held at the same time as the primary elections. I also hope the governor will not order absentee votes already cast to be discarded,” said Del. John Avoli, R-Staunton.

Northam, on Wednesday, moved the scheduled June 9 party primaries back two weeks, to June 23. He has the power under the Code of Virginia to do that without General Assembly assent.

The governor would need the General Assembly to sign on to the proposal to move local elections back six months, though.

“The governor has already moved the June 9 primary date to June 23, and there is no reason why municipal elections could not also take place on that same day,” said Del. Tony Wilt, R-Harrisonburg.

In his call to push local elections back into the fall, Northam suggested that ballots already cast via the absentee process be thrown out.

“The governor has suggested that absentee ballots already cast for the May election be thrown out. This is not the best solution to this problem. Our voter registrars are more than capable at ensuring these ballots are kept safe and are counted at the appropriate time,” said Del. Chris Runion, R-Bridgewater.

“There are fair and reasonable concerns that Virginia could be hitting the peak of its COVID-19 curve around May 5, and that we should therefore follow social distancing and other containment methods urged by the CDC and Virginia Coronavirus Taskforce. I support postponing the May 5 date – but not to November,” said Del. Ronnie Campbell, R-Fairfield.

Actually, modeling from the University of Washington Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation has Virginia’s COVID-19 peak at April 26, and the peak has Virginia needing 1,185 of its 6,581 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, and has the Commonwealth’s hospitals well within capacity in terms of ICU bed needs.

“We sincerely hope the governor will reconsider his proposal,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. “There is an option that keeps Virginians safe and healthy, keeps local self-determination in place, does not subordinate local issues to the furor and din of a presidential election, and maintains the high level of integrity that our electoral system requires and that our citizens expect.”

Story by Chris Graham

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