Governor Ralph Northam today announced a proposal to move local elections scheduled for May to November, and for the June primaries to be delayed until June 23. In light of the social distancing measures that are essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia, we support the governor’s proposal and his decision to put the health and safety of voters first.
One of the most important duties of government is to keep citizens safe. If the election and primaries are allowed to happen in the midst of a pandemic that is ravaging the state, our legislative body will have overridden the needs of the people to gain political power. Holding elections on the current timetable would all but ensure low turnout, forcing voters to make an impossible decision between putting their health at risk to cast a ballot, and staying home to protect themselves and loved ones. When we limit whose voices are heard in elections, the legitimacy of our democracy is only undermined.
Delayed elections will allow time for officials to make proper adjustments to ensure the safe administration of elections and to also allow for more than a dozen bills passed by the General Assembly to take effect, including the elimination of barriers to absentee voting laws (including giving voters the option to vote by mail), making election day a state holiday, establishing automatic voter registration, and allowing alternative forms of ID. Each of these are essential to ensuring that more people have access to the polls, and creating a Virginia that works for all of us. We look forward to continuing to work with Governor Northam and election administrators to ensure smooth, free and fair elections this year.
These are remarkable times that demand leadership: Virginia does not have to be another Wisconsin. We encourage the legislature to support the governor’s proposal, and ensure that no Virginian has to choose between being safe and participating in our democracy.