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Councilmembers Provide Input on Recent Election Change

Tuesday's ballot questioned confirmed that the Town's election month should be moved from May to November. The change will take effect 2012.

Town Council members will have a few extra months to plan for their 2012 campaign after voters chose to change the timing of the municipal elections from May to November.

On Tuesday, numbers showed that 74.90 percent of voters felt it made sense to wait until the fall compared to 25.09 percent who felt that no change should be made.

Mayor Kristen Umstattd said that she was not surprised by the referendum results in moving the Town elections to November. She anticipated that about 80 percent of the voters would say "yes" when it came to making the change.

As a result, Umstattd said she has asked Town Attorney Jeanette Irby to put together an advice letter on what needs done in order to finalize the change.

“It will require action by three entities,” Umstatted said, which include approval by the U.S. Department of Justice, a Town Charter change by the Virginia General Assembly, and legislation by the Town Council to bring the Charter and Town Code into compliance with the referendum results.

“I'm actually looking forward to a November election,” Umstattd said. “Personally, it will give me and the other candidates more time to reach more voters door-to-door.”

Councilmember Katie Hammler said she is happy that the voters were able to move the date. It certainly appeared to be the will of the community to align the election with other races, she said. 

“I voted from the dais to represent the vast majority that had petitioned the council to take this action,” Hammler said. “The actual count confirms that my voting position was correct." 

Hammler said she is optimistic of an increase in voter turn-out. She is also appreciative of all of those involved in the effort to bring the referendum to the ballot, which took a great deal of grassroots and dedicated effort, she said.

Councilmember Ken Reid agreed and said the election change will improve voter turnout.

“If you look at this election for the county races it was very bad. I predicted about a 28 to 30 percent turnout in Leesburg and I think Leesburg was only 24 or 25,” Reid said. “I think that voters have to be engaged more in Leesburg and I think the election change is going to be very, very good for the town.”

However, Councilmember Dave Butler said that although he isn’t surprised that the voters wanted the change he doesn’t think it was most logical choice.

“There wasn't enough time and money to educate voters on why this will be significantly detrimental to the Council and the Town. Almost everyone that we were able to talk with ended up voting against the change,” Butler said. “ Only a very few hyper-partisan Republicans were adamant that the change be made (that we talked with).  Voting "no" on the change was endorsed unanimously by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and was on the LCDC's sample ballot.”

Butler said it is an unfortunate decision that’s been made. Other Town Councils have come to regret the same change, he said, and it’s too bad that Leesburg wasn't willing to learn from the mistakes.

“I hope that this won't be too detrimental for the town,” Butler said.

V. Nilsov November 11, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Not having spoken to the Honorable Mr. Butler about this issue, I am trying to see how improved voter turnout and voter convenience is detrimental to the town. We already have more elections than most places in the U.S., and as an hour+ commuter, I have to time it carefully to be able to make it the polls at all on any election day.

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