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Posted February 14, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Town eyes election change again

By Alex Bridges

Front Royal Town Council may yet switch local elections to November.

Council at its work session next week plans to revisit the issue of changing when the town holds its elections. Council's efforts to have the General Assembly allow amendments to the town's charter to reflect the change failed for the current session.

Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker at council's meeting on Monday requested that members look at using another approach to move elections from May to November. Town Council can make the switch by way of an ordinance as allowed under state code. Such an ordinance change does require council to hold a public hearing.

Council also may seek designation by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to allow federal employees to participate in partisan elections as independents, Parker explained in an email Thursday. The Hatch Act bars federal employees from participating in partisan, local elections. Such a designation may address the issue of partisan elections that the town tried to change in its charter through the General Assembly.

Under federal code, the office "may designate a municipality or political subdivision in Maryland or Virginia and in the immediate vicinity of the District of Columbia, or a municipality in which the majority of voters are employed by the Government of the United States, when OPM determines that, because of special or unusual circumstances, it is in the domestic interest of employees to participate in local elections."

The office has designated 16 localities in Virginia under this process, according to federal government information on the code. Most recently the office granted a partial exemption to federal employees living in Fauquier County.

Del. Michael Webert, R-Warrenton, sponsored the bill that sought numerous changes to the town's charter. Council sought to move elections from May to November in the even-numbered years and to keep the contests non-partisan in nature. However, language regarding elections did not appear in the bill as filed. An amendment added later and approved with the rest of the bill after two readings instead would change elections to November in the odd-numbered years.

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, asked the House of Delegates to send the charter-change bill back to a committee that would not meet again, effectively killing the legislation. Gilbert expressed disappointment when council members levied criticism against delegates and defended the changes to the legislation as beneficial to the town and voters.

Town resident Tim Ratigan spoke during the comment period of the failure of council's request for charter changes in the House of Delegates. Ratigan accused delegates of changing the charter to move elections to the odd-numbered years to suit a political agenda.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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