My latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot last Thursday. The inspiration was the short time frame for nominating contests for the open seats in the 90th and the 48th House of Delegates districts. By setting the date for the special elections for 8/19, which is less than 60 days away, the speaker relied on Va. Code § 24.2-510:
5. For a special election held at a time other than a general election, (i) at least 60 days before the election or (ii) within five days of any writ of election or order calling a special election to be held less than 60 days after the issuance of the writ or order.
Five days stretched to a whopping seven days due to the July 4th holiday.
Democrats were well organized in the 48th. They had voting times and locations quickly and even managed to pull off a debate amongst the seven candidates who declared for the seat. The 90th – well, not so much. Both seats straddle localities – the 90th is split between Norfolk and Virginia Beach while the 48th is split between Arlington and Fairfax counties – which required some coordination between city committees in both localities.
The better organization in the 48th resulted in higher turnout, although both were pretty abysmal. In the 90th, just 452 votes were cast for the three candidates. In the 48th, there were 2,126 votes cast for seven candidates. There are 45,140 registered voters in the 90th, while there are 59,072 in the 48th.
The NoVA Republicans are better organized, too. They have a nominee in the the 48th. No Republican nominee is expected for the 90th. The deadline is 5pm today.
I think it is ludicrous for there to only have been seven days to get this done. Elections are important and the voters should have the opportunity to vet the candidates and choose the one best suited to represent them. It shouldn’t be a game, which is what the choice of 8/19 was. It’s bad enough that the districts are so gerrymandered that a Republican has virtually no chance to win either of these districts.
Of course, this all started with the 8/19 date for Puckett’s seat. That’s one the Democrats have little chance of winning.
There has to be a better way to select dates for special elections. How about we start with eliminating that section of the code? And requiring the date for special elections to be at least 75 days in the future, with a 30-day nomination period.
And don’t get me started on the section of the code that defines who gets to set the date. It needs to be taken away from party leaders.
My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.Follow @vpaige