Roanoke City Council votes 5-2 to move local election date, though questions remain


Following spirited debate, Roanoke City Council voted 5-2 to change municipal elections from May to November, starting in 2020.

Council Members Davis and Bestpitch voted against the motion that, raised by Councilwoman White-Boyd, reads as follows:

“I move the Mayor and Council Members in office shall be elected on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, beginning November 2, 2020 and each subsequent, even-numbered year. I would also instruct the city attorney to prepare the proper measures moving the elections from May to November, starting November 2, 2020, and for the adoption at the November 4 meeting.”

City Attorney Dan Callaghan repeatedly cautioned against the vote, since City Council did not ask his office to prepare an ordinance on which to vote beforehand; adding that one should not be created after-the-fact, since the proposed change is accomplished via ordinance.

“I do not think the council should vote on an ordinance that hasn’t been prepared by your attorney,” he said.

Mayor Sherman Lea, responding to separate remarks made during public comment, disagreed.

“I’m getting bothered by this continued back-and-forth…I’m aware of those issues, I’m not making my mind up in the dark. I’m aware of this. I choose to go to a November on an even year. So I think everybody else has. So it’s getting to the point where we’ve heard from citizens – citizens across the city – it’s getting to the point where I’m questioning- my intelligence seems to be questioned,” he said. “I think the last I saw, that we can as a council, there’s a motion, there’s a second, we can vote on whether we want to change this election.”

Councilwoman Davis says she was unprepared for the vote.

“I feel completely in the dark. My research and information is incomplete because, to my knowledge, this was going to come up in November,” she said.

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