Virginia Supreme Court grants towns’ requests to move May elections to June

"I Voted" stickers spread out on a table at a polling place in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The Supreme Court of Virginia has granted three Northern Virginia towns’ requests to delay their local elections to June 4 as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Loudoun County officials, two weeks beyond the May 19 date Gov. Ralph Northam set last month.

In the last few days, the Supreme Court granted requests from the towns of Lovettsville, Middleburg and Purcellville.

The court’s decision to grant the requests shows that localities uneasy about voting on May 19 may be able to buy themselves a little more time after state leaders were unable to reach an agreement on how to safely postpone the elections during the General Assembly’s April 20 reconvened session.

Dozens of towns and cities across the state were scheduled to hold elections Tuesday. The governor proposed moving those elections to November, but his proposal failed to win support in the state Senate after several Democrats said they couldn’t get behind the idea cancelling local elections that were already underway.

Northam was able to use his own executive power to enact a two-week delay, making May 19 the latest date available to him. But state law also allows localities to petition the Supreme Court for an additional extension of up to 30 days from the election’s original date.

In its petition to the court, which was decided by a three-judge panel, the attorney for the Purcellville Town Council said the council had concluded that the emergency conditions caused by COVID-19 “will not be sufficiently resolved by May 19.”

“It has further concluded that a later election date will provide a better opportunity to protect the health, safety and welfare of the town’s citizens,” wrote Purcellville Town Attorney Sally Hankins.

It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday if any other localities were seeking similar short-term extensions.