Northam recommends delay in Virginia’s May elections, eases alcohol sales restrictions for restaurants

Mike Still • Apr 8, 2020 at 11:21 PM

RICHMOND — Citing worries about voting during Virginia’s COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam is postponing the June 3 congressional primary elections to June 23 and will ask the General Assembly to consider moving May local elections to November.

“We have wrestled between the options and none are ideal,” Northam said Wednesday, adding that the governor, by law, has the authority to postpone primaries two weeks.

Northam said he has already talked with the speaker of the House of Delegates and with other legislators about the possibility of moving all May 5 local elections to the November general election. That move requires General Assembly approval at its April 22 veto session.

First District Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, said he supported Northam’s recommendation.

“I think it’s fine that we can delay it,” Kilgore said. “Unless I get other information, I’ll lean toward voting yes.”

Kilgore said many poll workers have health concerns with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and that having local elections during a presidential election may also increase voter participation in those local races.

With state emergency orders from Northam also prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, Kilgore said he is waiting for guidance on how the state House and Senate are going to convene. The House of Delegates includes 100 members and the Senate 40.

“I’m going to fulfill my constitutional duty and go vote,” Kilgore said.

Northam said he has taken action on 864 bills out of 1,291 passed by the General Assembly, adding that he expected to finish signing, amending or vetoing the rest before the April 23 veto session.

“We know the budget bill cannot move forward as passed,” Northam said, referring to declining state revenues during the pandemic.

Northam announced measures to help distilleries, breweries and restaurants during the pandemic. The state Alcoholic Beverage and Control Authority will defer annual fees for license renewal for 90 days. The deferral applies to licenses expiring in March through June and would defer a total of $4.5 million in fees for more than 6,000 licensed retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses.

Restaurants that sell mixed beverages on their premises also get a break, Northam said. Those businesses can now sell mixed beverages with takeout or delivery food orders, and Northam’s order takes effect at midnight Thursday.

A previous March 20 order allowed breweries, farm wineries, wineries and other establishments with off-premises privileges to sell products for curbside pickup in a designated area or make deliveries to customers’ homes without obtaining an additional delivery permit.

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