[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC]
In the immortal phrase of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: “No, no no!”
That is our reaction to a Virginia constitutional amendment proposed by state Sen. Adam Ebbin, which would move elections for the statewide offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general to presidential-election years, and shift state-legislative races from odd to even years.
Currently, state officials are elected in off-year races – the three statewide positions the year after a presidential election, state senators two years after that and delegates every odd-numbered year.
It’s a good system, because it puts those races front and center for voters, rather than be subsumed in a lengthier ballot that includes presidential and congressional races.
Perhaps Ebbin’s bill is designed to move state races to elections where there is larger turnout. If so, it’s a supposition factually correct but flawed nonetheless – readers of this page know that we’d much rather have a smaller but informed electorate going to the polls on local and state races. Having higher turnout is counterproductive – and potentially destructive – if the people casting ballots have no idea of the issues or personalities involved.
A more curmudgeonly take on the proposal (curmudgeonly? us?) is that Democrats, suddenly finding themselves in ascendancy in Virginia after years of near irrelevance, are angling to cement their position at the state level by co-mingling those races with federal ones.
If that’s the case, the only advice we can give them is “be careful what you wish for” – the tides of politics turn in surprising ways, and today’s rising party can be tomorrow’s Whigs.
The good news is, the state Senate committee to which this proposal was assigned punted it to 2021. If it comes back next year, we hope this measure is killed off. Virginians deserve to elect their top state office-holders in elections where those races are front and center, not relegated to second-class status.