Local May elections also face uncertainty

Posted at 1:18 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 06:14:53-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Voters have some important decisions on their hands during local elections on May 5, but uncertainty over the coronavirus is leading to questions about the process of voting.

City council races along with mayor races are scheduled for several cities, including Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, and Chesapeake.

"We do live in unprecedented times and I do believe this is going to be an historically low turnout for a lot of these races that are happening mid-year," said Dr. Eric Claville, the Director of the Center for African American Public Policy at Norfolk State University.

The Department of Elections is encouraging people to vote absentee on its website, saying voters can choose disability or illness as their reason for requesting an absentee ballot.

As for how in-person voting would work, that remains unclear. "How do you open up those polls? What are the safety measures that you're going to have for individuals who want to come out and vote? How many people can you have in polling places at one time?" said Dr. Claville.

Gov. Northam said he will ensure the elections are held on Wednesday. "We are continuing to work through the best options for how to hold these elections in this time of social distancing and public health concerns," he said.

Northam has issued a Stay at Home Order that is currently in effect until June 10, which is a day after the June 9 primary elections for Congressional races.

State Senate Republicans have sought more information about how Northam picked June 10 to be the date to end the order. "We would appreciate some further explanation as to your reasoning behind the selection of June 10 as the expiration of Executive Order 55. As that Wednesday is 41 days later than the April 30 deadline recommended by the White House Coronavirus Task Force and one day after Virginia’s June 9 Primary, your choice has struck us as curious," they wrote in a letter to him.

"This is a very fluid issue and for now we’re just playing it by ear," Dr. Claville told News 3 about the ongoing questions about voting.