Roanoke City Council votes to move election day for council members to November in even years

Issue has been debated in past meetings

ROANOKE, Va. – After an hours-long meeting, Roanoke City Council voted 5-2 Monday night to move election day for council members from May to November in even years.

While many support moving the council elections from May to November for better turnout, debate ensues over whether the elections should be held in even years when we vote federally, or whether the elections should be held in odd years, when we vote for state and other local elections.

23 people came out Monday night for public comment on the proposal to move election day for city council members.

The issue has caused lively debate in past meetings. Last month, some council members were accused of trying to push forward with the issue without hearing from the citizens.

Monday night’s public comment gave these citizens a space to voice their opinions.

Those in favor say it will increase voter turnout, while those opposed warned that local elections would get lose in elections for Congress and President.

May elections have been referred to by some as “secret elections” because of low voter turnout.

Monday night, councilmembers including Bill Bestpitch and Michelle Davis made it clear they support odd years because they don’t want council elections to get lost in the Presidential and federal mix. However, the rest of council is in favor of even years because that’s when voter turnout is the highest.

“I think the most important thing is to eliminate the one barrier that is the most pervasive, and the one barrier that we can, which is to move elections to the time of year when everybody knows that we have elections. Even years are Presidential elections, and that is when we get the most voter turnout,” said Djuna Osborne, Roanoke City councilwoman.

“It is not a direct representation of the people’s will. Direct representation of the people’s will is a vote or is a referendum,” said Michelle Davis, Roanoke City councilwoman.

Many people in the crowd, as well as Bestpitch and Davis, supported putting the question to a referendum, which would allow the people to vote directly on the issue.

Others wanted a study completed to review all the facts and not “rush the process.”

However, neither option gained enough support to happen.

Because of the timing of the move, council members will see their terms extended by six months to make up for the added time.

Some saw that as self-serving, but council members say that’s not the reasoning, and some took offense that people accused them of that.

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