Voters in the Town of Orange were scheduled to head to the polls next Tuesday, May 5, to choose two candidates to represent them on the Orange Town Council. 

Instead, following Gov. Ralph Northam’s latest executive order issued Friday, they’ll head to the polls two weeks later on Tuesday, May 19.

Orange is one of 56 localities across the commonwealth with a May election. Incumbents Martha Roby and Rick Sherman are the only two candidates on the ballot for the two seats open for election.

Earlier this month, the governor had recommended moving May elections to coincide with the November general election in an effort to protect voters and polling officials alike. To do so would require approval by the General Assembly. In a special session last Tuesday, the House of Delegates approved the measure but the Senate did not.

Instead, the governor invoked his statutory authority to postpone the election two weeks, allowing registrars and election officials more time to prepare for the unique circumstances posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Orange County Registrar Donna Harpold said she’s prepared.

“I had to be ready one way or another,” she said, referencing the governor’s announcement.

The town election will be held—as it always is—inside the Orange Volunteer Fire House on Caroline Street. Harpold said doors will be propped open to allow air flow and the floor will be marked with painter’s tape so voters can safely social distance themselves from one another.

“Anyone who has been to a store lately should be familiar with what that looks like,” she noted.

She plans to have an election official staff the door to make sure there aren’t too many voters within the polling place at one time.

Additionally, she anticipates getting some direction and assistance from the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps regarding sanitization and public health procedures.

She has confirmed election workers are willing and able to staff the May 19 election.

“They don’t seem hesitant,” she said. “I probably have more than I’ll need.”

All will be outfitted with masks and other personal protective equipment.

Any voter will be permitted to vote curbside (without exiting their vehicles) should they desire, she said. Others still can vote absentee.

In his announcement last week, Gov. Northam encouraged citizens to vote absentee by mail if their municipality is holding a general or special election in May. The Department of Elections recommends voters who request an absentee ballot use the reason code for having a disability or an illness (2A).

Voters can request online that an absentee ballot be mailed to them by visiting elections.virginia.gov/voterinfo or by downloading and printing a request form at elections.virginia.gov/forms and returning the completed and signed form to Harpold’s office by mail, fax or scanned attachment to an email.

Only individuals who were eligible to vote on May 5, 2020 may participate in the elections on May 19, 2020, and no new candidates are eligible to participate in the postponed elections. The deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration for the May 5 elections has passed. The deadline does not change for the elections scheduled for May 19.

Harpold’s office must receive mailed-in requests for absentee ballots for the May 19 election by 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 12. Absentee ballots returned by mail must be received by 7:00 p.m. on election day, May 19.

Harpold said she’s only mailed out 17 absentee ballots thus far.

In 2018, when the town last held elections for council, only 10 percent of nearly 2,600 registered voters participated. In 2016, when Roby and Sherman were elected to their current terms, approximately 2% of registered town citizens participated. Both received 55 of 62 ballots cast.

“We’re fortunate it’s just the one precinct,” she added. “I don’t anticipate a big turnout.”

In addition, the governor also moved the June primary elections from June 9 to June 23.

For more information, contact the Orange County Registrar’s office at (540) 672-5262.

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