Update: Tuesday August 13, 2019 Chesapeake City Council will be discussing May vs November elections during the 6:30 PM meeting.
This issue was first proposed in August 2018, but CITY COUNCIL VOTED TO DENY A PUBLIC HEARING on the issue. The petition drive amassed thousand of signatures, but did not meet the requirements to get this issue on the ballot. (Read below).
Regardless if you are for or against moving our elections from May to November, please let city council know that you support the first amendment rights for citizens voices to be heard and that they should have a public hearing regarding this issue.
You may pre-register to speak at the meeting by calling 757-547-1047. If you can not attend you may email city council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I Have a Confession…
The first time I voted in a local election within the city of Chesapeake was May 1, 2018 … and my name was on the ballot as a candidate for Mayor.
Why? The honest answer is that I have lived in Chesapeake for nearly a decade and I simply didn’t realize that our city’s local elections were held in May and not in November. I would occasionally see yard signs for candidates in the spring and had mistakenly assumed that they were primary elections, and that there would be another vote in November.
To those of you who were born and raised in Chesapeake, and that have been active within the political community, I am sure this is appalling. I can give you a variety of valid excuses, but yes, bottom line is that it is my fault as a voter for not paying closer attention. However, I quickly realized that I was not the only one with the misconception about our May elections, as it was a conversation that I had frequently with other Chesapeake citizens while I was campaigning this past spring.
The statistics show that on average between only 9 % to 15% of registered voters show up to vote in Chesapeake’s May elections.
Valid Reasons to Move The Election to November
It cost the city of Chesapeake over $100,000 in tax payer dollars to hold a second election in May.
The General Registrar for the city of Chesapeake, Mary Lynn Pinkerman, was quoted in The Virginian Pilot article on August 18, 2018 discussing the issue and stated that it would save the city money if the local elections were changed and held in November due to the costs associated with “staffing, ballots, equipment, supplies, polling locations and advertising.”
There are school safety concerns with May elections as many of our schools are also polling locations. November elections occur when the children have the day off from school.
I personally stood outside Grassfield High School for several hours on election day May 1, 2018. School was in session and my two children were attending classes inside. I greeted many of the voters along with several other candidates and their family members.
The voting was held in the lobby in front of the gym and the only boundary separating access to the children walking by was a folding table. Children intermingled with the voters both before and after school hours as they walked to and from the parking lot and athletic fields. The new Chesapeake Superintended Dr. Jared Cotton was quoted by The Virginian Pilot as stating “It’s not a convenience issue,” Cotton said. “It’s a safety issue.”
Change The Date Petition
As of October 20, 2018 there is currently a petition circulating by a non partisan group called Change The Date Chesapeake LLC. The goal is to obtain valid signatures from approximately 16,000 registered voters in Chesapeake to add the following referendum question to the November 5, 2019 ballot:
“Shall the Chesapeake City Code be amended to require Mayoral, City Council and School Board Elections to take place on the first Tuesday in November, a date which is also known as the November general election date?”
If successful in obtaining the required signatures during a nine month period, the proposed ballot question above would then allow Chesapeake voters to decide if they want to keep our local elections in May with a NO vote or move them to November with a YES vote.
The group is currently looking for volunteers to assist in signature collection and hoping to have the petition available at several upcoming local polling locations during the November 6, 2018 election. If you are able to assist, please send an email with your contact info to: ChangeTheDateChesapeake@gmail.com
You may also download a copy of the petition from ChangeTheDateChesapeeake.com and instantly start help gather signatures.
It is important to note a few important rules. Let’s learn from recent events and start with the obvious…
The person you are obtaining a signature from should be alive. Please don’t forge any signatures 😉
The circulator of the petition must be a legal resident of the United States of America and who is not a minor nor a felon whose voting rights have not been restored.
The person collecting signatures needs to be eligible to vote in Chesapeake, but does not need to be a registered Chesapeake voter. The signatures need to be FROM registered Chesapeake voters in order for the signature to be deemed valid.
The petition form must be printed double-sided on a single piece of paper. They would be happy to get you some pre-printed forms. Simply send and email requesting some to ChangeTheDateChesapeake@gmail.com.
The person circulating the petition needs to witness the person signing the petition and sign the affidavit stating so.
The printed name and address needs to be legible in order for the registrar to verify the signature. Last four digits of social security number are optional and not required.
The Change The Date Chesapeake LLC group has several members who are a notary of the public. They can make arrangements to pick up your signed petitions and also notarize the signature of the person who circulated the form. There will also be a few events where they can be dropped off and notarized and they will be announced on the Facebook page Change Chesapeake. Circulators please do not sign the back of the petition until you are in the presence of a notary who can witness your signature.
We Deserve the Option to VOTE on This Issue
Signing the petition does not necessarily mean that you agree that Chesapeake elections should be held in November. It does mean that you support the democratic process by helping to put the question on the ballot so voters can decide the issue.
During the August 14, 2018 Chesapeake City Council meeting, Republican City Council Member Robert Ike, Jr. brought forth the proposal of November elections and asked that Chesapeake citizens be allowed citizens to weigh in on this issue during a future meeting. Democratic Council Members Dr. Ella Ward and Dwight Parker supported this motion. However, all other city council members voted against hearing public input on the matter.
In the video below around 6:40 Mayor West stated that he understood “the notion that if you open it up for public debate that you are going to get the right answer”, but then voted against hearing any public comments because “May elections have served Chesapeake well” and he believed the motion was politically motivated. Ironically, Mayor West was quoted by The Virginian Pilot during the campaign stating “I like May elections; they just don’t work.”
The citizens of Chesapeake should decide when their elections should be, but help is needed in collecting signatures so the citizens may all vote on this important issue.