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Editorial: Return Vienna's Town Council elections to spring

Town's representatives in Richmond should force the issue – though we suspect they won't

Tucked away in the Vienna Town Council’s package of General Assembly requests for 2024 is one that should be taken seriously, but probably won’t be.

Council members are asking the legislature to restore Vienna’s ability to hold municipal elections in the spring, rather than conflate them with the bigger election season in the fall.

Stand-alone spring elections in towns like Vienna had been the case for generations, making it easy for interested voters to learn about the candidates and issues, then cast informed ballots largely free of partisan politics.

Sensing an opportunity to inject such partisanship into every nook and cranny of Virginia governance, when Democrats ever so briefly held control of both houses of the General Assembly and governorship, they pushed through legislation forcing all local elections to November – over the objection of many local-government leaders across the commonwealth, including in Vienna.

Advocates for changing all elections to November say (a) it saves money and (b) it encourages turnout. But both are fig leaves, and largely transparent ones at that, exposing the, ahem, shortcomings of the effort. The cost is a rounding error in the grand scheme of government budgets and, to be blunt, having more voters in the mix does not necessarily lead to the best outcome, if they are uninformed voters.

“There was something very special about having our elections [in May],” departing Vienna Town Council member Ed Somers said. Holding elections in November “diverted people from thinking about the town,” he said.

The new state senator representing Vienna (Saddam Salim) and the newish delegate (Holly Seibold) – Democrats both – could prove their independence by not simply proposing to get the town’s election moved back to May, but putting in the effort to actually make it happen.

Hope springs eternal on our end. We are not expecting Salim and Seibold to rise to the occasion, but if they do, we’ll be the first to applaud.