Governor vetoes partisan elections bill

Gov. Terry McAuliffe struck down a bill Front Royal leaders said would put party politics in the town’s nonpartisan elections.

McAuliffe announced his decision Friday afternoon to veto Senate Bill 767 stating that “requiring party identification of candidates for local offices … would unnecessarily inject an element of partisanship into historically nonpartisan municipal elections.”

Front Royal Town Council recently sent a resolution to McAuliffe asking that he veto the legislation approved by both the House of Delegates and state Senate.

Town Attorney Doug Napier advised council and other officials of the veto Friday afternoon and noted that U.S. military members, federal employees and law enforcement agents “had not been disenfranchised from the local political process.”

The bill would have required that election ballots for local offices identify candidates by political party. Such affiliation is not useful when making decisions about purely local matters and would only serve to increase divisiveness in local government, McAuliffe stated.

“We should be working to reduce partisan rancor, rather than creating new places for it to flourish,” McAuliffe added.

The bill also would have rendered many Front Royal residents who work for the federal government, including Front Royal Mayor Timothy Darr, ineligible to serve in an elected office.

The state has not mandated party affiliation for candidates in local races since the adoption of the written ballot in 1870, the governor noted.

McAuliffee cites the case of Marcellus V. Virginia State Board of Elections in which the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia stated that “(t)he reduction of partisanship at the local level, the promotion of impartial execution of laws in local governance, and the expansion of eligible political candidates all present a legitimate and strong” reason to uphold this historic practice.

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