"Elections are the foundation of democracy, and voting is a fundamental right, but no one should have to choose between protecting their health or casting a ballot.”
That was Gov. Ralph Northam (D) speaking Wednesday about his call to postpone town elections across the commonwealth as well as the June 9 Republican primary to select a nominee for the U.S. Senate.
If the governor's proposal to shift the town elections is approved by the General Assembly, voters in Loudoun's towns and beyond will cast ballots for mayor and councils in November along with the presidential and other high-profile federal races. Voters wanting to cast a ballot in the statewide GOP primary will be delayed just two weeks to June 23.
While moving a long-planned election – any long-planned election – should happen only in the rarest of circumstances, this is plainly one of those moments. We support the governor's declaration.
Voter turnout in May town elections is pitiful enough in normal times. Factor in coronavirus anxiety and the threat to poll workers, no one can argue holding elections in the first week of May would result in a fair, robust reflection of representative government.
In Loudoun County, voters in Purcellville, Round Hill, Hamilton, Lovettsville and Middleburg were due to head to the polls in a few weeks. Now they'll have several more months to learn about the neighbors hoping to represent them, and they'll be able to do it without the all-consuming distraction of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pushing the elections back gives candidates of all stripes more time to hit the streets, engage in conversations with their prospective constituents and pitch their plans for the future. That's just as it should be.
Barring an anomaly – something that doesn't seem entirely out of the question these days, but we digress – the end result will be a historically high number of town ballots cast. That's an effect we love to see.
(Selfishly, we also welcome more time for planned Q&As and research of the candidates. Our reporters have been stretched rather thin with all-hands coronavirus coverage.)
“Elections, a foundation of democratic government, must take place while ensuring voter safety,” Deb Wake, the president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, commented Wednesday. “Consolidating and allowing time to plan for the safe conduct of elections will help ensure that voters can exercise their right to vote as safely as possible."
We urge voters Loudoun County's voters to take advantage of this appropriate delay. Study up on the local candidates. Quiz them on the issues most important to you and yours. Campaign and canvass if you're so moved.
Most importantly, show up in November.