Judge orders July election

Published 11:27 am Wednesday, February 14, 2018

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Circuit Court Judge Carl Eason has ordered a July 24 election for Isle of Wight County Sheriff, based on a petition from the Board of Supervisors. 

The election stems from Sheriff Mark Marshall’s decision to leave his post two years early to make beer in a family-run brewery on the Eastern Shore. 

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While an election outside the normal cycle, such as town elections in May, primaries in June and general elections in November, do occur in Virginia, a local special election in Isle of Wight County in July has not occurred in at least the past 20 years, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

An election for Sen. John Cosgrove, R-14, was held in August 2013 in five precincts in Isle of Wight, but the turnout was just 2 percent of qualified voters, according to Isle of Wight election officials. 

Even during a regular general election in November, the sheriff’s race can expect about a 45 percent turnout, according to Isle of Wight election officials. 

A low turnout may, in fact, be part of the logic used by three supervisors who pushed for the early election. Windsor Supervisor Joel Acree, who voted for the early election, said last week that residents who contacted him argued that in a low turnout, those who vote will know what they are voting for as opposed to uninformed voters who cast ballots in a higher turnout election.

In a Feb. 2 Facebook post, Newport District Supervisor William McCarty indicated that he had received “disdain” for the July 24 date due to summer vacations, but urged constituents to use an absentee ballot. 

The petition from the Board also indicates the highest ranking deputy shall serve as interim sheriff until a new one is elected. 

The highest-ranking deputy is Major James Clarke, whose newfound status as interim sheriff seems to have raised concerns among a small number of residents, based on emails received by three members of the Board of Supervisors.

Clarke’s ascent to interim sheriff is based on state law, which calls for the highest-ranking deputy to man the post until a special election is held. 

Clarke also plans to run for sheriff, as does Lt. James Pope, who also works in the Sheriff’s Office. 

The filing deadline for candidates for sheriff is May 25, 5 p.m. The last day to register to vote in the July 24 special election, or make changes to registration, is July 10. The Isle of Wight County Registrar’s office is located at 17106 Monument Circle at the Isle of Wight Courthouse Complex. The office can be reached by calling 365-6302.   {/mprestriction}