Keep local elections in May

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

To the Editor:
The Virginia General Assembly has voted to move local elections from May to November. That action will become law if Governor Ralph Northam signs it; as of this writing he has not done so.

There are 123 localities throughout Virginia that hold “off-cycle elections” in May. The General Assembly indicates that historically low turnout in May elections justifies moving local elections to November and attaching them to state and national elections.

The City of Franklin has a population of approximately 8,000 and Southampton County’s is approximately 18,000. There are numerous reasons why local elections should remain in May.

First, it is true that turnout in local elections is lower than November state and national elections. In local elections, voters know the candidates, believe they support the best interests of the areas they serve, and are satisfied. They will vote for change if necessary. Candidates for most local offices generally do not identify with a political party and are not supported by Political Action Committees.

Second, most members of city councils, boards of supervisors, and school boards serve terms that parallel July-June fiscal years. Moving local elections to November places a person in office in January in the middle of a fiscal year. This is especially problematic for members of school boards.

Third, state and national elections have become so polarized that many candidates start campaigning two years before the election. Local elections should not be caught up in the insanity that November elections have become.

Fourth, any statewide mandate decision that “one size fits all” is naive in its application (think state-wide mandatory school closings).

Finally, May elections cost money that November local elections would eliminate. That is a small price to pay for the quality of a May election with no influence from state and national politics.


Robert N. Holt