It is well known and scarcely debated that more voters participate in November elections than in those held in other months. This is certainly true in our town. I believe that we are best governed when everyone has a chance to participate in our democracy. I believe that elected officials should make elections as accessible and convenient as possible for all voters. To that end, the Herndon Town Council voted in December to move our elections from May to the more traditional month of November, starting in 2016.
Tuesday, in an obvious effort to kill the Town's charter bill (SB935) to move elections from May to November starting in 2016 — increasing voter turnout and saving taxpayer dollars — The Virginia House of Delegates voted along party lines to refer SB 935 back to the House Privileges and Elections committee.
Sending bills back to committee is a known tactic to kill legislation while avoiding the embarrassment of a floor vote on a bill that would otherwise be routine.
On April 19, 2000, and again on Feb. 22, 2002, the Virginia General Assembly, House and Senate, nearly unanimously approved an Act to amend 24.2-221 Section A Code of Virginia "providing cities and towns the option of conducting municipal elections at the November general election."
The Town of Herndon is the third largest town in the Commonwealth; held four advertised public hearings on the proposed election changes in October, November and December 2014; sent an informational postcard to every household in town announcing the public hearing subject and dates; considered three possible changes to elections and in the end only approved one — the May to November change beginning in 2016, which significantly increases voter participation and saves taxpayer dollars, since the Commonwealth now requires towns to pay in full for May elections (yet the Commonwealth fully funds all November general elections, local or otherwise.)
Herndon's Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D- 33) patroned the bill on behalf of the Town. The Senate voted unanimously to pass SB935.
Herndon's Del. Tom Rust (R-86) refused to patron this bill in the House, stating that he didn't support the change because it was "bad policy" (despite the fact that he not only voted in favor of the legislation in 2002 enabling towns to make this change and in favor of the other charter bills moving town elections from May to November 2016 that were before the GA this year).
These types of charter bills are routine — on average six a year are passed in the Virginia General Assembly. In fact, nearly 40 other towns and cities have already been granted this right by the General Assembly, almost always in unanimous bipartisan block votes.
The following charter bills (moving elections from May to November starting in 2016) have already been approved by the GA House and Senate in the current 2015 session: HB 1284 Town of Branchville, HB 1663 Town of Buchanan, HB 1834, Town of Luray, and SB 940, Town of Montross.
Each of these above bills passed the Senate and House unanimously, including an affirmative vote from Del. Tom Rust.
I remain completely baffled why the Virginia House of Delegates believes it is appropriate for other towns to move their elections to November starting in 2016, but not Herndon.
Why is Herndon so different?
Does the General Assembly believe they are better suited to govern the Town of Herndon than the mayor and council elected by the citizens who live here? Why does Del. Rust believe that these other four towns should have November elections starting in 2016 but not the town of Herndon? Herndon residents deserve the same consideration as every other town in the Commonwealth.