Bill would move Victoria, Kenbridge elections to Nov.

Published 5:31 pm Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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State and local elected officials have expressed concern about a piece of legislation the Virginia Senate passed Thursday, Jan. 21, that — if it becomes law — would shift all May local elections to November moving forward.

The legislation, Senate Bill 1157 (SB 1157), required a tie-breaking vote from Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax to pass in the state Senate. It has yet to come before the full Virginia House of Delegates.

Supporters of the bill have said low-turnout May elections are undemocratic, failing to get citizens engaged in local politics.

But Kenbridge Town Manager Tony Matthews shared concerns with the legislation on a variety of fronts Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Tony Matthews

“The bill that passed the Senate to move elections from May to November will make it tough on small towns and local governments to fill vital seats left vacant by any number of reasons — resignations, illness, family matters, etc.,” he said. “This move will make it harder for local government, which is much closer to the needs of its citizens, to function at what is already a much slower pace than the changing needs of the people.”

He noted that oftentimes, local government officials cannot act on a situation due to mandates that have been put into place by higher levels of government.

“This (bill) will only slow down the process (by which) we can help our citizens,” he said. “It will also be hard for those elected officials who are nonpartisan to remove themselves from the stigma of party affiliation.”

If HB 1157 becomes law, local elections will be held at the same time as partisan national and state elections, potentially leading local elections to be seen through a similarly partisan lens.

“Most candidates and elected officials just want to help the people they serve — do the right thing, regardless of how a particular party may stand,” Matthews said. “Moving elections will potentially couple candidates to partisan tickets.”

Additionally, if the bill becomes law, it would extend the expiring terms of local elected officials from midyear to the end of the year after the November elections.

Tammy Brankley Mulchi, legislative assistant for Del. Tommy Wright, who represents Virginia’s 61st District, said Wright has been talking with the localities in his district about the bill.

“While some support it, others have concerns,” she stated in a Monday, Jan. 25, email. “One concern is that only those in the town can vote when you have a local town election. When you move everything to November, you will have some people coming into the same precinct who cannot vote in the local elections; therefore, they will need a different ballot, making things more confusing.  He will study both sides of the issue before he votes if it comes before the full House of Delegates.”