Valley legislators respond to Gov. Northam's proposed move of local elections

Sen. Obenshain is calling to allow the two women accusing Lt. Gov. Fairfax of sexual assault...
Sen. Obenshain is calling to allow the two women accusing Lt. Gov. Fairfax of sexual assault to be allowed to testify. | Credit: WHSV(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 10, 2020 at 1:40 PM EDT
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On Wednesday of this week, Governor Ralph Northam

until the same time as November general elections.

But Republican state lawmakers are not in agreement with the governor on delaying local elections by that long.

Northam's recommendation to move May elections to November has to be approved by the General Assembly when they re-convene for a special session on April 22. While the governor holds the authority to postpone primaries by up to two weeks, as he did with the June primaries, the governor cannot re-schedule local or state elections. But the General Assembly can.

However, our local Shenandoah Valley legislators, all Republicans, say they support moving local elections – but not all the way to November.

Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), along with fellow Shenandoah Valley Delegates John Avoli (R-Staunton), Ronnie Campbell (R-Fairfield), Chris Runion (R-Bridgewater) and Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg) issued the following joint statement on Friday in response to the govern'rs announcement.

Republicans on the state level with the Virginia GOP and on the local party level had

while implying in some statements that the June 9 date for Gov. Northam's executive order had been purposefully tied to the primary date, though the day also has elections for House of Representatives primaries including Democrats.

The primary elections, in our area, will determine Virginia's Republican nominee to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Mark Warner. Virginia's presidential primary, which only included Democratic candidates because the state Republican Party chose to choose a presidential nominee at convention instead, happened on Super Tuesday at the beginning of March. Other areas of Virginia will have primaries for House of Representatives races, including Democrat and Republican nominees.

The governor's full recommendation for local elections proposes a plan for one ballot in November that includes both national elections and the local elections that would have been held in May. All voters qualified for November voting would be able to vote, including voters who weren't registered in time for May elections, giving people more time to register if they couldn't due to COVID-19.

Local officials whose terms are currently set to end on June 30 will continue in their roles if that plan is approved until their successors are elected on Nov. 3 and qualified to serve.

Northam said his recommendations and his order on the primary were made after discussing the changes with Virginia's congressional delegation, as well as leaders in the state House and Senate.

Senator Mark Obenshain also issued his own full letter on the topic:

Friends, On Wednesday, Governor Northam announced that he would ask the General Assembly to move the date for all municipal elections across Virginia from May to November. Historically, localities around Virginia have had the autonomy to choose whether they would prefer their elections for Board of Supervisor, City Council, Town Council and Mayor be in May or in November. The localities that choose to have them in May have done so for a reason. Most do so in order to avoid the hyper partisan rhetoric that overshadows all November elections – especially in a Presidential election year. With the billions of dollars being spent on advertising and the 24-7 media coverage of the federal elections, the important local issues impacting many localities are going to be absolutely lost in the torrent. I would actually support moving the municipal elections from their originally scheduled date of May 5 – but not to November. There are fair and reasonable concerns that Virginia could be hitting the peak of its COVID-19 curve around May 5, and that we should therefore follow social distancing and other containment methods urged by the CDC and Virginia Coronavirus Taskforce. I do not, however, agree with the decision by the Governor to move these local elections to the fall to coincide with the Presidential, U.S. Senate and Congressional races. This move would completely override a locality’s self-determination of what date would be best for their elections. I would suggest that a date in late June or July would suffice to maintain health guidelines and social distancing but not placing locality’s discretion at risk of being taken away. The Governor has already moved the June 9 primary date to June 23, and there is no reason why municipal elections should not also take place on that same day. Last - but certainly not least - is the issue of what to do about absentee ballots already cast for May elections. In 2018 in Fairfax City, for example, voters requested fewer than 100 absentee ballots. To date in 2020, voters have requested more than 1,500 absentee ballots and a significant number have already been returned and officially cast. What happens to these ballots and the potentially thousands of absentee ballots cast across the Commonwealth in local elections scheduled for May 5? I suppose the Governor is suggesting that we throw them out. I cannot fathom why this would be the proposed solution as to how to handle these cast ballots. Were we to move the elections to June or July, these ballots could be kept safe by our general registrars or Virginia Department of Elections and counted. I sincerely hope the Governor will reconsider. There is an option that keeps Virginians safe and healthy, keeps local self-determination in place, does not subordinate local issues to the furor and din of a Presidential election, and maintains the high level of integrity that our electoral system requires and that our citizens expect. Best, Mark Obenshain
General info on COVID-19
Flattening the Curve

All of the cancellations, postponements, and closures, locally and nationwide, are happening in hopes of “flattening the curve” of the virus.

While letting the virus spread rapidly could shorten the duration of the pandemic, it could put a lot of strain on hospitals, putting them over capacity. The goal is to keep the apex curve below hospital capacity.

Who gets tested for the virus?

Currently, there are two main reasons someone would be tested for the coronavirus: having symptoms or exposure to an infected person. In our area, requirements for testing include both symptoms and either travel to an affected area or exposure to someone with a confirmed case.

The main symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. These look a lot like the flu and the common cold, so it takes a physician to determine if testing for the virus is necessary.

How does the coronavirus test work?

For a patient, the process of being tested for the virus is easy and can potentially be done almost anywhere. It typically involves taking a swab from deep in a patient’s nasal cavity to collect cells from the back of the nose.

The sample is then sent to a lab, where it will be tested to determine if the patient’s cells are infected with the virus. The same process is used to collect a sample from a patient who is tested for flu.

What to know about preventing the virus

Most people don't suffer much from COVID-19, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly and people with existing health problems.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Avoid contact with sick people.

• Avoid non-essential travel.

For the latest factual information on COVID-19, you're encouraged to check both the

and the