On split vote, Roanoke City Council moves election day
After months of sometimes bitter debate, the Roanoke city council voted Monday to set a new election day. The vote was 5-2 in favor, with council members Trish White-Boyd, Anita Price, Joe Cobb and Djuna Osborne, alongside Mayor Sherman Lea, joining the ayes.
Previously, elections were held in May. Supporters of the change pointed out that turnout for May elections was historically very low, typically hovering between 10 and 15 percent. Many argued at a public hearing Monday that changing the date would increase voter participation and engagement with city races.
Changing the date of municipal elections has been debated for years. The issue was revived most recently in October, when several members voted in favor of examining the issue. That led to Monday's public hearing and vote.
In total, 23 speakers came out to make their voices heard. The group was split, with some in favor of the council's decision, others arguing election day should be moved to November in odd years, not even years.
Former Roanoke Mayor David Bowers joined that camp, alongside members of the Roanoke City Republican Committee. Those opposed to the change worried Roanoke issues could be drowned out if municipal elections were scheduled alongside national races.
With Monday's vote, the 2020 municipal elections will now officially move from May to November. That will extend the terms of several members of council by six months.