You asked: Clerk of Court: Referendum on ballot requires voters’ signatures

Published 12:21 pm Saturday, June 23, 2012

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You asked: How can Southampton County residents get a referendum on the ballot so voters can elect their school board members?

COURTLAND—Getting a referendum on the ballot would require signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters in Southampton County, said Clerk of Courts Rick Francis.

To do so for the Tuesday, Nov. 6, Presidential Election, a petition must be filed with the Clerk of Courts 111 days before the election, Francis said. On Sunday, July 24, the election will be 135 days away.

Southampton County is among 24 of Virginia’s 134 school districts where voters do not choose school board members.

A three-person committee appointed by a judge does the job.

In 1991, Virginia was the only state with school boards composed only of appointed members. The General Assembly a year later gave localities the option to elect school board members.

Francis and Mark Flinn, the attorney for the Virginia Municipal League, both cited a law that would allow residents to get the matter on the ballot in the form of a referendum.

A petition would require signatures from 10 percent of those registered voters as of Jan. 1. The number of voters changes daily, but as of June 1, Southampton County had 12,350, said Registrar of Voters Peggy Davis.

That means 1,235 would need to sign the petition.

In related matters, State Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, plans to introduce legislation that would allow Southampton County voters to choose their school board members. Morris believes that anyone who spends the public’s money needs to be accountable to the voters.

In Franklin, school board members are appointed by the City Council, while in Isle of Wight County, voters elect them.