Purcellville to Petition VA Supreme Court to Delay Elections to June

The May 5 town elections could be moved to November at the request of the governor, but that won’t be decided on until next week. In the meantime, the Town of Purcellville is petitioning for a delay to June.

The Town Council Tuesday night voted unanimously to direct the town staff to request Gov. Ralph Northam to use his executive authority to postpone the May elections by 14 days. The council also voted to direct staff to petition the Virginia Supreme Court to move the elections back another 16 days to June 4 if Northam issues that executive order.

Northam on April 8 requested the General Assembly move the elections to Nov. 3—the same day as the 2020 general election. Town Council seats in the Loudoun towns of Hamilton, Lovettsville, Middleburg, Purcellville and Round Hill will be on the ballot.

According to the motion read by Councilman Joel Grewe, the Town Council would “prefer the election date to be later than May” and should be held “as soon as it may be safely done after the declared COVID-19 emergency has passed.”

If the elections were to be delayed by only 30 days to June 4, that would still be six days before Northam’s declaration of emergency and stay-at-home order expire.

The town staff will send a letter reflecting that stance to Sen. John Bell (D-13) and Del. Dave LaRock (R-33), and will seek support from the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and the Virginia Municipal League, which last Friday sent a letter to Northam opposing delaying the elections to November.

Under state law, the governor can issue an executive order to postpone an election not to exceed 14 days from the original election date. If a local governing body determines that a longer postponement is required, it may petition the Virginia Supreme Court for an extension not to exceed 30 days from the original election date.

“I don’t believe citizens should have to choose between their safety and exercising their right to vote,” Grewe said. “Let’s go to a safer place. … It is good for us as a town to try to balance the election and safety.”

Councilman Ted Greenly said he supported the 30-day delay because he would be worried that absentee votes already cast would be thrown out if the elections were postponed to November.

Already, many of Loudoun’s 28 candidates have expressed opposition to delaying the elections to November. Although Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser, who is seeking a third re-election this year, voted to support a delay to June 4, he previously voiced support to turn May 5 into an absentee-voting-only election. Fraser said on Monday that if the General Assembly does vote to move the election to November, he would “adamantly oppose discarding any ballots that have already been cast.”

The Hamilton Town Council on Monday unanimously agreed to support the six-month elections delay to November in an effort to keep the community safe from the spread of coronavirus.

The General Assembly next Wednesday, April 22 will meet, discuss and vote on the six-month delay.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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