By Randy Arrington
LURAY — While Page County has not held a May election in several years, local voters could be affected during the statewide Republican primary rescheduled for June 23.
Last week Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order pushing back state and local elections scheduled for May and June.
The GOP primary was originally set for June 9, but it was pushed back two weeks to extend past the governor’s Stay At Home order, which runs through June 10.
The last day to register for the Republican primary is May 18.
These dates are subject to change as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases begins to rise in Virginia. On Saturday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 20 new cases in the Lord Fairfax Health District over the previous two days. Harrisonburg reported 22 new cases on Saturday alone. Front Royal reported five new cases in a single day.
The June 23 Republican primary will be held for congressional seats in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Page County’s registrar, Carol Gaunt, is concerned about the safety of the voters and the logistics of a primary that’s only 10 weeks away.
“Right now we have no polling places,” Gaunt said on Monday. “They are all closed down, and they don’t want us in their building.”
The concerns are particularly frustrating considering the cost, manpower and social distancing challenges presented for an election that could draw less than 1,000 voters to the polls.
Whether it’s the June primary or November’s general election, the county registrar is urging voters to consider casting their ballots early.
“We really encourage everyone who wants to, to vote absentee by mail,” Gaunt said. “We are more than happy to send out absentee ballots to them.”
Normally, the Page County registrar’s office gets “900 to 1,000” absentee ballots during a presidential election and “400 to 600” in other years. But those numbers are expected to climb this fall.
Currently, the registrar’s office on South Court Street is closed to the public, but staff is there to answer calls and continue their work.
There is some potential that the General Assembly could discuss the issue of elections in more detail when it reconvenes in special session on April 22.
While dates for upcoming elections have shifted, Gaunt says local candidates need to file by the same deadline as before the coronavirus outbreak.
“Whatever was set for deadlines, for cut off, is still set,” Gaunt said.
Those interested in running for open seats for mayor or town council in each of the county’s three towns, as well as chairman of the Page County School Board, must file their “petition and qualifications” paperwork with the county registrar by Tuesday, June 9.
The current Stay At Home order (running through June 10) issued by the governor is making it difficult for candidates to gather the required signatures, if they have not already done so. Based on population, candidates in Luray and Shenandoah must gather signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot, while candidates in Stanley do not.
The Town of Luray will see the mayor’s seat and three other seats on town council up for election this fall. The four-year terms expire for councilmen Leroy Lancaster, Joey Sours and Leah Pence.
As of April 13, only one person has filed to run for mayor of Luray — Councilman Jerry Dofflemyer. His election would open up an additional seat on the council. The potential vacancy would be filled by appointment through the end of 2021, and then at the polls during a special election next November to fill the remainder of the term.
As of April 13, three town residents have filed their petition and qualifications with the county registrar to run for the Luray Council — Jason Pettit, Ligon Webb and Judy Peabody. Councilman Joseph Sours has submitted a portion of his paperwork, but his filing is “not complete” at this time, according to Gaunt.
The Town of Stanley’s ballot will see the mayor and three council seats up for election. The terms of councilmen Joseph Mauck and Jeremiah Knight are expiring in December.
The third opening on council will be filled through a special election in November (in conjunction with the general election) to fill the unexpired term of Mike Uram, who resigned unexpectedly at the end of February.
The Stanley Council unanimously appointed former mayor Doug Purdham to fill the seat on April 8. The appointment runs through Dec. 31, 2020.
Purdham stated last week that he was uncertain if he would run to keep the seat in November. The candidate that does will fill Uram’s unexpired term, which runs through Dec. 31, 2022.
No Stanley candidates have filed with the registrar at this time.
The Town of Shenandoah will see open seats for the mayor and three council seats. The four-year terms of councilmen Mike Lowe, Richard Pierce and Russ Comer will be expiring in December.
Comer ran unopposed last fall in a special election to fill the unexpired term of late councilman David Hinkle, who passed away unexpectedly in May 2019. If Comer wants to retain the seat, he will need to run for a full, four-year term this fall.
The office of mayor carries a two-year term in Shenandoah.
No Shenandoah candidates have filed with the registrar at this time.
SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN
A special election will be held in November to fill the seat of chairman of the Page County School Board.
On Dec. 9, 2019, the Page County School Board appointed Jim Grimley as chairman, effective Jan. 1, 2020. Grimley filled the seat of Randy Bailey, who resigned Nov. 1, 2019, citing health reasons.
Five candidates put their names in the hat at the time of the appointment last December, but no one has filed with the county registrar as of April 13.
The unexpired term will run through Dec. 31, 2021. Grimley’s appointment ends Dec. 31, 2020.
The county registrar also notes that the local office could also use additional volunteers as well. Volunteer recruitment information is on the state elections website.
Voters may also register on the state site, and all information recorded on the state site is then sent directly to the local office.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering, or who has questions about voter registration, absentee ballots, the upcoming primary in June or the general election in November, may do one of the following: