Northam pushes local elections in Virginia back to May 19

2020 election vote
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Gov. Ralph Northam, rebuffed by the General Assembly in his effort to move the scheduled May 5 local elections in Virginia to November, is having to settle for moving them back two weeks, to May 19.

Northam has statutory authority to make that move. His proposal to move the elections to November, which was almost assuredly done with a partisan bent, failed on Wednesday when a budget amendment proposed by Northam to effect the change failed in the State Senate.

“Virginians should never have to choose between casting a ballot and risking their health,” Northam said. “I am grateful to the House of Delegates for taking action to move our upcoming elections, but unfortunately the Senate failed to make the same commonsense decision. While we strongly encourage every Virginian who can vote by mail to do so, we will also take every necessary step to conduct these elections in a way that ensures in-person voting is done safely and responsibly.”

What Northam is trying to paint a “commonsense decision” came across as anything but.

A group of Republicans responded after Northam had first proposed the idea of moving the local elections with a proposal of their own – to have the local elections contested alongside the June 23 congressional primaries.

The House of Delegates, to whom Northam is “grateful,” actually voted down Northam’s proposal in its first vote on the amendment, before a motion for a second vote cleared the way for a narrow 47-45 approval.

The Senate bucked Northam on a voice vote that wasn’t even close enough for any senator to feel compelled to request a roll call.

And so here we are, full steam ahead for May 19, which, good news there, the state is clearly on the downside of whatever curve there has been here with COVID-19.

Modeling from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that has served as a key guide for the Commonwealth in its COVID-19 response indicates that the peak for hospital resource usage here was Thursday, and according to numbers from the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association today, the state has nearly 5,500 hospital beds open, and 78 percent of the 2,903 ventilators available in Virginia hospitals are currently unused.

Northam said Friday that, assuming those trends continue, it is looking likely that he will lift a ban on elective surgeries in Virginia hospitals on May 1, and he is looking at May 8 to begin a slow reopen of Virginia’s economy.

The extra two weeks, then, is all he really needed anyway, despite the nonsense rhetoric about having to “choose between casting a ballot and risking their health,” which is at the same time irresponsible and also par for the course for Northam of late.

As had been done previously, before Northam’s power move to push the local elections back six months, there will be a campaign to get people to vote absentee, as thousands of Virginians had already done before the governor threw caution to the wind.

Absentee voting details

If you haven’t done so already, you can request an absentee ballot at or by downloading and printing a request form at and returning the completed and signed form to their local General Registrar’s office by mail, fax, or scanned attachment to an email.

Contact information for General Registrar offices is on the form.

Forms are also available in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Korean.

Voters completing a paper application may use reason 2A, “my disability or illness” to complete their form. Voters completing an online application to request an absentee ballot will need to follow the prompts and select “I have a reason or condition that prevents me from going to the polls on Election Day.” They will then have the option to choose “my disability or illness” as the reason for their request.

Only individuals who were eligible to vote on May 5 may participate in the elections on May 19, and no new candidates are eligible to participate in the postponed elections.

The deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration for the May 5 elections has passed. The deadline does not change for the elections scheduled for May 19.

Local General Registrar offices must receive mailed-in requests for absentee ballots for the May 19 election by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12.

Voters are advised to apply immediately to account for any potential delays in mail delivery.

Absentee ballots returned by mail must be received by the local General Registrar by 7 p.m. on Election Day, May 19.

Voters can find contact information for their local General Registrar at

Voters are encouraged to mail their completed ballots as soon as possible to ensure they arrive before the deadline.

Poll workers

The Department of Elections is recruiting election officers to work at polling locations for the upcoming elections.

Election officers perform a wide range of functions on Election Day, including setting and up and breaking down activities at polling locations, providing voters with basic voting instructions, verifying voter information, and assisting with other duties as needed.

If you are interested in working as an election officer on Election Day, please apply at:, email, call (800) 552-9745, or contact your locality’s General Registrar here.

Story by Chris Graham

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