By Carol Vaughn —
Town elections in Virginia will be held Tuesday, May 19, after Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order postponing the elections from May 5, when they were scheduled to be held.
Northam, as governor, has legal authority to postpone the election by up to two weeks.
He had asked the General Assembly to move the local elections to November because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Senate in a sesson last week declined to take up the matter.
The House of Delegates approved the measure.
Elections are scheduled in 56 localities across Virginia. The governor also moved the June primary elections from June 9 to June 23.
“Virginians should never have to choose between casting a ballot and risking their health,” Northam said in a press release, adding, “I am grateful to the House of Delegates for taking action to move our upcoming elections, but unfortunately the Senate failed to make the same commonsense decision. While we strongly encourage every Virginian who can vote by mail to do so, we will also take every necessary step to conduct these elections in a way that ensures in-person voting is done safely and responsibly.”
Northam directed the Virginia Department of Elections to give registrars the latest Centers for Disease Control guidance on best practices to maintain social distancing and and sanitizing standards at polling places.
Terry Flynn, Northampton County voter registrar, said as of Monday his office has mailed out 364 ballots to Cape Charles voters and 156 ballots to Exmore voters for town elections in those two towns.
An absentee ballot may be applied for online or by calling the Northampton County Voter Registrar’s Office at 757-678-0480, or by fax at 757-678-0453.
The Accomack County Voter Registrar’s Office has mailed out 640 absentee ballots so far, according to Voter Registrar Patricia White.
Towns in Accomack County holding elections in May include Belle Haven, Chincoteague, Hallwood, Keller, Onancock, Parksley, Saxis, Tangier, and Wachapreague.
“We continue to encourage those voters eligible to vote in one of these towns to vote by absentee using Reason code 2A ( line 3) on the application,” White said.
Voters in Accomack County may apply online to vote absentee, or may call the office at 757-787-2935 or 757-824-0525 to request an application.
Voters can request online that an absentee ballot be mailed to them by visiting elections.virginia.gov/voterinfo or by downloading and printing a request form at elections.virginia.gov/forms and returning the completed and signed form to their local voter registrar’s office by mail, fax, or scanned attachment to an email.
Contact information for voter registrar offices is on the form. Forms are also available in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Korean.
Voters completing a paper application may use reason 2A, “my disability or illness” to complete their form. Voters completing an online application to request an absentee ballot will need to follow the prompts and select “I have a reason or condition that prevents me from going to the polls on Election Day.”
They will then have the option to choose “my disability or illness” as the reason for their request.
The deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration for the May elections has passed.
Local registrar offices must receive mailed-in requests for absentee ballots for the May 19 election by 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 12. The deadline to request an absentee ballot online is 11:59 p.m. May 12.
Voters are advised to apply immediately to account for any potential delays in mail delivery.
Absentee ballots returned by mail must be received by the local registrar by 7 p.m. May 19. Voters are encouraged to mail their completed ballots as soon as possible to ensure they arrive before the deadline.
“This is the most challenging time in election administration that any of us have ever lived through,” said Allison J. Robbins, president of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia. Robbins added, “Registrars across Virginia are committed to ensuring that every election official feels protected while performing their duties on Election Day. Registrars are equally committed to ensuring the safety and security of all voters and ensuring that voters can cast their ballots with confidence that they will be counted.”