Governor delays town elections until May 19

Published 8:34 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Stephen Faleski

Staff Writer


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Gov. Ralph Northam announced on April 24 he would use his executive authority to delay all local elections scheduled on May 5 for two weeks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Smithfield’s Town Council election will now take place on Tuesday, May 19.

Northam had previously proposed moving all local elections to Nov. 3, coinciding with the date of the 2020 presidential election. While Virginia’s House of Delegates voted narrowly to accept his proposal during last Wednesday’s reconvened General Assembly session, the Virginia Senate did not vote on the matter.

On the Smithfield ballot, voters will be asked to choose from four candidates for three available seats on the Council. Three of the candidates — Denise Tynes, Randy Pack and Michael Smith — are incumbents, and the fourth, Renee Rountree, is seeking her first term.

According to Isle of Wight County Voter Registrar Lisa Betterton, Tuesday, May 12 is the last day voters can request a mail-in absentee ballot. 

Town residents can also fill out an absentee ballot curbside at the registrar’s office. Voters will not be allowed inside the building, as it and other county facilities remain closed to the public.

Virginia law currently requires those who vote absentee to find a witness to sign their ballots. After the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against this law in federal court, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced an agreement had been reached to allow the state to accept absentee ballots without a witness signature “for voters who believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot.” The agreement still must be accepted by the court.

Voters can also still cast ballots in-person on May 19 at the Smithfield Center on North Church Street, which serves as the town’s polling place. To ensure social distancing, the registrar’s office has worked with the Smithfield Police Department to restrict the center’s occupancy to no more than four voters at a time, with painter’s tape placed on the floor to direct voters to stand six feet away from others, Betterton said. Election officials will wear masks and gloves, and will spray down each voting booth with a disinfectant in between each voter, she added.