The effort by a nonpartisan group hoping to coincide Manassas elections with the national ballot has come under attack in recent days, as the city’s Republican Party is seeking to defeat the proposal.
Organizers for Manassas Votes and Yes for November want the city’s local elections to be in November, when the majority of voters are tuned in. Municipal races are in May, typically drawing about 10 percent of registered voters.
Voters will decide on the measure Tuesday.
Republicans plan to hand out a sample ballot suggesting people vote no on the ballot question. A Web site, called MayisforManassas.com, has been launched, and a flier has been mailed across the city.
Steve Thomas, chairman of the Manassas Republican Committee, said the organization has paid for the efforts, spending about $2,000, mostly for the mailers.
“Could you imagine if the local election were being held this November as hyper-partisan as it is? We want to keep [local elections] from becoming hyper-partisan,” Thomas said.
Cost is also a factor. “The cost to candidates will go up simply because you have to contact way more people in a November election to get your message out,” he said.
The party’s Web site lists Manassas elected officials — most of whom are Republicans, including Mayor Harry J. “Hal” Parrish II, city Registrar Linda Womack and Electoral Board Chairman Jack Slimp — as “saying no,” among others.
Womack said she is a nonpartisan officer and didn’t know about the Web site, although she has expressed concerns about the initiative to the Electoral Board.
“When you vote in May, you’re not voting for any other issue than . . . in your city,” Womack said. “I don’t want the city to lose its independence.”
Parrish, an outspoken critic of the move, said in a letter on the Web site that he thinks moving the election will make it more difficult for newcomers to run, politicize city seats and open up voting to those who don’t pay attention to local issues.
“May voters come out because they care about our city and put forth efforts to make Manassas better,” he wrote.
Steve Hersch, who has helped organize Manassas Votes, said moving municipal elections to November is common sense. He launched a counter Web site at Yes4November.org, arguing that having more people in tune with politics and elections in November will make government and candidates more responsive, as well as save the city money. The group has spent about $5,000 on its efforts.
“Increased voter participation helps make local politicians more accountable to citizens,” the Web site says. “Local candidates should have to work for your vote.”
Hersch said local elections should be about what’s best for voters, not candidates.
“If you read through the objections, it comes back to self-interest and wanting what’s convenient for [elected officials], which is reaching out to a small electorate,” Hersch said. “It’s just discouraging to see this at the last possible minute.”
Slimp, the chairman of the Electoral Board, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Manassas and Roanoke are the only cities in Virginia that have partisan elections in May, according to the State Board of Elections. More than a dozen other cities hold nonpartisan elections in May.