A few long weeks ago, we praised Gov. Ralph Northam's plan to delay May's local elections until the General Election date in November. Adding the local elections to the ballots in November, we contend, all but ensures greater safety and freedom for the voters, and in the end it would lead to more robust turnout in the elections that most directly impact the lives of local residents.
What has happened in the weeks since the governor's proposal has been nothing short of an affront to the voters and the concept of representative government.
As of this writing, we are less than three weeks from the new election day, May 19. Northam (D) last week used his statutory authority to delay the elections two weeks without approval from the General Assembly, which narrowly defeated the governor's effort to delay until November. Two weeks is the longest Northam can postpone elections without consent from state lawmakers.
But there are a couple new twists, and the May 19 date – again, just a couple weeks off – is anything but final.
Some Loudoun towns have taken to petitioning the Supreme Court in hopes of postponing beyond May 19, and the General Assembly may still call a special session to further delay local elections, with a summer date the most bandied about.
The confusion, constant shifting and calculated politicking amounts to unadulterated disrespect toward the voters. Politicians are keeping their constituents dangling from a string, wondering when or if they should even bother heading to the polls or sending in absentee ballots.
We hear the concerns about delaying elections six months – we really do. We don't take lightly that a small number of people have already cast absentee ballots and that towns have incurred expenses in preparation for a May election. Indeed, it is distressing to have an office-holder – any office-holder – automatically serve months beyond the established term to which they were elected. That last point is our biggest hesitation in calling for November elections.
Yes, we understand those concerns. We just don't believe any of them outweigh the end goal: to have as many people as possible cast ballots in elections. That's something that would come with pushing the local races to November.
Thus far, a cohesive solution from the towns – not only in Loudoun, but across the commonwealth – has been elusive. This all-around failure from our elected leaders in offering a firm solution, presenting it and sticking with the plan is disappointing.
Short of a general consensus from all localities hosting upcoming elections on when those contests should be held, November remains the best option.