Sunday, October 11, 2009
Christiansburg voters can have say on election date
On Election Day, Christiansburg residents may vote on a referendum to change the date of town council elections.
ALAN KIM Special to The Roanoke Times
Residents attend a recent Christiansburg Town Council meeting. Although there are no elections for the town council this November, voters can weigh in on the date of town elections. On the ballot, there will be a referendum to change town council elections from May to November of odd-numbered years.
Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam
| Tonia Moxley
Christiansburg will have no local candidates on the ballot come Nov. 3, but residents may vote on a referendum to change town council elections from May to November of odd-numbered years.
Proposed by resident and blogger Carol Linstrom and supported by Councilman Henry Showalter, the initiative has so far garnered wide support.
More than 2,700 people signed a petition to put the question to a vote. Only 1,302 signatures were needed.
Town council elections currently are held every two years in May. A change to November would combine Christiansburg elections with county and state elections.
If approved, the change would take effect beginning November 2011. One more May election would be held in 2010, Montgomery County Registrar Randy Wertz said.
The change could save the town about $5,000 per election, Wertz said. Towns must fund May elections, but the county pays for November elections.
The Blacksburg Town Council voted last year to change its election date from May to November of odd-numbered years. That change will take effect Nov. 3.
Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam, who is running unopposed this year, proposed and shepherded that town's election change. He argued it would reduce confusion and increase voter turnout.
May elections are generally held at different polling stations than November elections, causing confusion about where residents should vote in a given year.
Rordam's first suggestion to change Blacksburg elections from May to November of even-numbered years met with stiff resistance. Opponents argued that holding town elections in tandem with presidential and congressional races could inject partisan politics into municipal government.
Party affiliation and participation are disallowed under Blacksburg's town charter. But Rordam and opponents compromised, and the council eventually approved November elections in odd-numbered years.
Blacksburg's change did not go to a referendum, although some residents did collect signatures to put it to a townwide vote.
The Montgomery County League of Women Voters backed Rordam's idea, saying its research showed municipal elections attracted more voters when held in November.
According to registrar's office statistics from 2004 to 2008, turnout in November elections in Christiansburg has historically exceeded May. Turnout in May last year was just under 12 percent. Turnout for the November 2007 election was about 40 percent.
Municipalities were granted the right in 2002 by the General Assembly to choose the date of their elections. More than 200 of the state's towns and cities still hold their elections in May.