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With one swipe of his pen, Gov. Northam delivered an unmistakable “up yours” (and that’s the nice way of putting it) to local governments across the commonwealth.
The governor recently signed legislation, passed by the narrowest of margins and likely only because Republicans were down a state senator (who had the unfortunate excuse of having died earlier in the session), that will force towns and cities across Virginia starting next year to hold their elections in November, rather than – as many still do – in the spring.
Only the chronically obtuse will be unable to figure out the true, devious purpose behind the legislation. So let’s dispense with the fatuous explanations of those who supported the measure. They say it will (a) save money when compared to holding separate elections and (b) ensure larger turnout for local elections.
As to (a), the money is so trivial in the grand scheme of government operations that, who cares? As to (b), turnout no doubt will be larger, but does large turnout mean quality turnout?
The real motivation by the Democratic majority in Richmond in moving elections to November is to suddenly turn local races for city councils and town councils, which should be focused on local issues, into adjuncts of national politics.
How do we know? Because it’s already started, even in localities – like Vienna – that have (and want to keep) their elections in the spring.
Democrats made a play last year, largely through robocalls, to sway Vienna voters in what is and should always remain a nonpartisan election.
Someone who “gets it” is state Sen. Chap Petersen, the rare Democrat who voted against the measure because he understands it is a “truly terrible idea” to conflate races for Town Council with those of president.
As for the other legislator who represents Vienna, Del. Mark Keam? Keam abstained from voting because, as he tells us, he supports the concept of all elections in November, but didn’t want to go against the wishes of Vienna town leaders, whom he earlier had promised he would not support such a measure.
Not exactly a “Profile in Courage” on Keam’s part, but his abstention had no impact on the vote in the House of Delegates, so perhaps it is not an egregious sin.
Keep in mind: Existing law did not prohibit localities from holding elections in November. Some, like Herndon, have gone that route. And while we don’t think that’s smart, we think it is the choice of the voters in those localities.
Forcing all localities to follow suit is another matter. And doing so for cheap political purposes is tawdry, indeed.