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By Ben Orcutt -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A third member of the Front Royal Town Council has come out in favor of moving the panel's biennial elections to November.
Councilman Thomas H. Sayre announced Thursday that he favors switching the elections from May. Councilmen Thomas E. Conkey and N. Shae Parker still favor switching election dates, and have not changed their positions.
"When I said I was 50-50, I really was," Sayre said. "I truly wanted the public to be as educated as possible about the possible move to November elections contemporaneously with the federal election. I might not always get it right, and I probably will not be able to please everyone on every issue, but I truly want what is in the best interests of the citizens of Front Royal."
Communities that have made the switch typically reference saving money and increasing turnout as major reasons to hold the elections in the fall. Sayre mentioned both as considerations.
It's more "cost-efficient to have our local election in November," Sayre said. "And more people would come out to vote in November."
Sayre said he considered some of the possible negative factors in moving the elections to November, such as them becoming more partisan and not receiving proper attention.
"In the end, however, hearing [from] and listening [to] numerous good people, conducting some of my own research, and weighing the issues, I feel the positives will outweigh the negatives by moving the election to November," Sayre said.
Conkey was pleased with Sayre's decision.
"I'm happy that Mr. Sayre is coming around," Conkey said. "I'm glad he's seeing the light, and I hope the rest of the council will do the same."
Parker remains committed to the November date.
"Yeah, I think I'd like to see it moved," Parker said. "I think any way we can make life easier on the citizen and cut our expenses at the same time, I just think it's a common sense decision."
Other nearby localities that have already made the switch to November elections include six of the seven towns in Rockingham County and Stanley in Page County. Winchester moved its City Council elections to November in 2008.
With a town survey still pending on the issue, other members of the council are taking a wait-and-see approach.
"I don't have my mind made up," Mayor Timothy W. Darr said. "I'm going to just look at the survey, listen to the public comments and see where it pans out."
Darr would only vote on the issue in the event of a tie.
Councilman Carson C. Lauder Jr. and Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway spoke in a similar vein.
"I, of course, am partial to having the elections in May, but I'm not stuck in the mud on that," Lauder said. "I'd be very willing to consider moving them to November if the evidence is such that most people want that and it would be a good thing for the town."
"Well, I'm interested to see what the responses on the survey of the public [are], see what kind of response we get from it," Holloway said. "But as of right now I still am leaning towards May, but like I said, I'd still like to see what the public has to say about it."
Councilman Hollis L. Tharpe is also keeping an open mind.
"I do like May elections," Tharpe said. "I do like the idea that we have our own election simply because we have town issues. But that could change. I could very possibly vote for November. With the relationships that we're getting into with the county as far as working together, maybe November will be a good election day, but at this point, I just don't know. I'm not going to make a commitment one way or the other.
"I'm not a fence-sitter, and I'm not playing to any good old boy network either," Tharpe added.
Town Attorney Thomas R. Robinett believes there is enough time to change the 2012 council election from May to November if that is the panel's desire.
"They have to change the ordinance and then notify the State Board of Elections and so forth and so on," Robinett said. "I think there likely would be time because the process is basically a notification process with [federal Voting Rights Act] pre-clearance out of the way. I think there would be, but I haven't researched it in any depth or detail at this point."