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Barring Executive Action, Local Elections in Virginia Will Go Forward in May

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NPR
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Dozens of elections across Virginia are scheduled to take place a few days from now.

More than 60 local elections are scheduled to take place May 5th. That’s less than two weeks away, during a time when Virginia is under a stay-at-home order. That’s why Governor Ralph Northam wanted to delay them until November. But that means candidates would have to qualify for the ballot again during a quarantine and thousands of ballots that have already been cast would be thrown away.

Senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax City says the governor’s plan would be in violation of local charters. 

“Ignoring a local charter and moving elections to a date off in November when science doesn’t tell us that that’s going to be any safer of a date. We have to tackle this problem," Petersen says. "The only way to do that is through a special session.”

So far, the governor has resisted calls for a special session to move local elections to June 16th. Meanwhile, the Senate has rejected Northam’s proposal to move them to November 3rd. That means, for now, the May 5th elections are moving forward as planned, a development Senator Scott Surovell of Fairfax County says is wrong headed and dangerous. 

“My father had a kidney transplant eight years ago. He takes immuno-suppressant drugs every day. He’s diabetic. He has to work in a city that wants to have one of these elections in May," he explains. "God forbid that city turn into a COVID hotspot because we chose to go forward with an election.”

The governor has authority to push local elections back two weeks to May 19th. But if he wants to push them back any more than that, he’ll either need to call lawmakers into a special session or find some other kind of emergency authority.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.