Governor postpones May elections in response to COVID-19

Governor postpones May elections in response to COVID-19
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ7) - Governor Ralph Northam has postponed the May General and Special Elections by two weeks, from May 5, 2020 to May 19, 2020, using his authority as governor.

He says he wants elections to be as late in the year as possible, since social distancing guidelines could get in the way of normal voting, and he urges people to absentee vote.

Elections are scheduled in 56 jurisdictions across the Commonwealth. The governor had already moved the June primary election from June 9, 2020 to June 23, 2020.

Earlier this month, Northam recommended moving the May elections to November, which required action by the General Assembly. While the House of Delegates approved the measure, the Senate declined.

“Virginians should never have to choose between casting a ballot and risking their health,” said Governor Northam. “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.”

The governor has directed the Department of Elections to provide the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to General Registrars on best practices to maintain social distancing and sanitization standards at polling locations.

The governor encourages voters to vote absentee by mail if their municipalities are holding a General or Special Election May 19, 2020. The Department of Elections recommends voters who request an absentee ballot use the "reason" code for having a disability or an illness.

Voters can request online that an absentee ballot be mailed to them by clicking here or by downloading and printing a request form by clicking here and returning the completed and signed form to their local General Registrar’s office by mail, fax, or scanned attachment to an email.

Contact information for General Registrar offices is on the form. Forms are also available in Spanish, Vietnamese, and Korean.

The governor says voters completing a paper application may use reason 2A, “my disability or illness” to complete the 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.

“Elections are a critical function of our government,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “We will do everything in our power to maintain the integrity of our democratic process while ensuring the safety of all Virginians.”

Only people eligible to vote May 5, 2020 may participate in the elections on May 19, and no new candidates are eligible to participate in the postponed elections. The deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration for the May 5, 2020 elections has passed. The deadline does not change for the elections scheduled for May 19, 2020.

Local General Registrar offices must receive mailed-in requests for absentee ballots for the May 19, 2020 election by 5:00 PM Tuesday, May 12, 2020. 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 General Registrar by 7:00 PM on Election Day, May 19. Voters can find contact information for their local General Registrars by clicking here. 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. “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.”

The Department of Elections is recruiting election officers to work at polling locations for the upcoming elections. Election officers are always in demand, but Northam said, "Their service is needed even more now as the elections process faces unprecedented challenges. Election officers perform a wide range of functions on Election Day, including setting and up and breaking down activities at polling locations, providing voters with basic voting instructions, verifying voter information, and assisting with other duties as needed."

The governor encourages college and university students to become involved as election officers, especially when many retired Virginians—a population that traditionally serves as election officers—are at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19. Working as election officers, students are eligible to be paid..

If you are interested in working as an election officer on Election Day, apply here, email info@elections.virginia.gov, call (800) 552-9745, or contact your area’s General Registrar.

Click here to view the full text of Executive Order Fifty-Nine, postponing the May 5, 2020 General and Special Elections.

Governor Northam amended Executive Order Fifty-Six, postponing the June primary election, directing the Department of Elections to work with the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps and provide support to election officials. The full text of the amended executive order is available here.

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