Virginia Governor Postpones June Primary; Urges Lawmakers to Move May Election to November

Susan Jones | April 9, 2020 | 5:04am EDT
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Virginia's Democrat Governor Ralph Northam (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
Virginia's Democrat Governor Ralph Northam (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

( - When Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a statewide "stay-at-home" on March 30, he said it would last through June 10 -- one day after the Commonwealth's scheduled primary election.

So it came as no surprise on Wednesday when Northam announced that he is "exercising his statutory authority" to move the June 9 primary to June 23.

Northam also asked the General Assembly to move the May 5 General Election to November 3, 2020. Only lawmakers can change the date of that election.

“As other states have shown, conducting an election in the middle of this global pandemic would bring unprecedented challenges and potential risk to voters and those who work at polling places across the Commonwealth,” Northam said in a news release.

“Making these decisions now will help election officials prepare and implement the necessary changes. This is about protecting the health and safety of Virginians during this pandemic and ensuring our citizens can make their voices heard in a safe, fair, and uniform manner. I urge the General Assembly to do their part and take action to move our upcoming (May) elections.”

The plan the Governor is proposing includes two notable measures:

-- All absentee ballots already cast for the May election will be discarded. Virginians will have an opportunity to vote for local elected officials in November.

-- Those officials whose terms are to expire as of June 30, 2020 will continue in office until their successors have been elected on the November 3, 2020 and have been qualified to serve.

Vote by mail

The League of Women Voters supported Northam's plans and encouraged Virginia's elected leaders to "make vote-by-mail a priority and an option for voters" in case the pandemic persists into the "lead-up" to the November 3 general election.

"The League of Women Voters has long advocated for vote by mail in order to improve voters' access to the polls," the group said in a news release. "Health concerns now add to these reasons for facilitating voting at home. Those at the highest risk of death from COVID-19 are also Virginia's most faithful voters. Election Officers are also at risk."

Joan Porte, an official with the League's Virginia chapter, said every registered voter should receive a ballot by mail -- without submitting an application.

Five states conduct all of their elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Many more states allow absentee voting without requiring a particular reason.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that vote-by-mail is a prescription for voter fraud. He said he's "all for it," in the case of senior citizens or other voters with special needs.

But, he added, "you should be sure that that vote is meaningful and it's not just made fraudulently, because there's a lot of fraudulent voting going on in this country."

Trump also advocated voter ID:  "You vote, you should have voter ID," he said.

Democrat National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told CNN Wednesday night that he's never been angrier about an election than he was about Tuesday's Wisconsin primary, where voters, many wearing masks, waited in long lines to cast ballots.

Perez accused the Republican Party of "putting people's lives in jeopardy."

"We're going to have another stimulus bill at the end of the month," Perez said, "and we need to make sure that we include in that bill more resources so that there are, in every single state, the option to vote by mail; vote no-excuse absentee; that's what we have to do, because you shouldn't have to win the geographic lottery to vote."

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