Following recent state legislation that requires Lynchburg to move its longstanding May local elections to November, Lynchburg City Council voted to pursue holding those elections in odd-numbered years, rather than syncing its local elections with federal elections on even-numbered years.
Council reviewed a number of options — the default of which would require an ordinance to push May 2022 elections to November 2022, and May 2024 elections to November 2024. This would sync local election cycles with elections for federal and presidential offices and extend the terms of current members by six months.
Council nixed the option to push May 2022 elections to November 2023, and May 2024 elections to November 2025. This would have synced local election cycles with elections for state offices and would have extended the terms of current members by 18 months.
Instead, in a 5-2 vote, council indicated to City Attorney Matt Freedman to pursue a third option, one that would adopt an ordinance to change the elections from May to November in even years — meeting the requirements of the state — and seek a charter amendment from the General Assembly for one-time three-year councilor terms for the November 2022 and 2024 general elections and revert back to four-year terms after the 2025 and 2027 elections.
Lynchburg City Council’s seven members are not all elected at the same time. Its four ward councilors were last elected in May 2020, while its three at-large members were last elected in May 2018. All serve four-year terms.
By doing this third option, council will meet the state guidance and, ultimately, allow local councilor elections to fall in sync with state elections on odd-numbered years rather than federal elections on even-numbered years.
Before council officially can move forward with this option, it requires a public hearing, which Freedman said likely would be held at a November meeting. If council adopts, the issue would then go to the General Assembly, where council would seek an amendment to the city charter.
Vice Mayor Beau Wright made the motion to pursue this third option, and was seconded by at-large Councilwoman Treney Tweedy.
Wright said aligning the elections with federal elections in even years would make it more difficult to have thorough conversations about local issues, and it would increase the expense for local candidates running for office as they will be competing in a nationalized political environment.
Ward II Councilman Sterling Wilder also echoed some of these concerns and said while he always would prefer a May election, with that choice off the table he wants citizens to “have more of a say” without getting bogged down by federal issues.
Both Ward IV Councilman Chris Faraldi and Ward III Councilman Jeff Helgeson opposed the motion.
Faraldi said he does not believe personal convictions, such as wanting a local election to fall on a non-federal election year, should be able to influence the time of the election.
Helgeson agreed, said he was in support of the default option, and found the third option to be convoluted.
The deadline to act is Dec. 31. Freedman said council likely would take the vote on the issue of adopting the ordinance and seeking a charter amendment after the public hearing.