By Dave Forster The Virginian-Pilot June 8, 2012 PORTSMOUTH A mix-up has surfaced over the deadline for City Council candidatesto file for this fall’s election, calling into question whetherthose who haven’t filed still are eligible to run. The discrepancy lies between the publicly advertised June 12deadline and provisions in the city charter that refer to a cut-offdate one week earlier, on the first Tuesday of the month. State andlocal officials are investigating. In the meantime, a state policyanalyst has advised the local registrar to proceed with the laterdate, and a state legislator has called the earlier date anoversight in the law.
The conflicting, earlier deadline was added to the city charter in2011 when the General Assembly approved a request by the CityCouncil to move local elections to November. The language wasn’tbrought to the attention of election officials until Wednesday,when two attorneys called the registrar’s office about it, saidDeloris Overton Short, the city’s general registrar. State law sets the second Tuesday in June as the filing deadlinefor a general election in November, and that’s what Short’s officehas advertised. A city’s charter can take precedence over statelaw, however. Four of seven City Council seats, including the mayor’s spot, areup for election this fall.
The incumbents and two challengers hadfiled by the earlier deadline, but at least one challenger whoplans to run has not, former Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas. “My heart just stopped,” Psimas said of her reaction whenshe heard of a potentially earlier deadline. The language itself is cause for confusion. It says candidates mustsubmit their petition of 125 signatures by the “closing of thepolls on the first Tuesday in June of the year of theelection.” The only polls that close regularly in June in Virginia are primaryelections, on the second Tuesday. T8 LED Tube Light
When the city’s charter was revised in 2011, the first draft filedwith the General Assembly did not include a change to Novemberelections or a reference to a filing deadline of the first Tuesdayin June. The changes came in a substitute bill approved in acommittee chaired by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Lucas saidThursday that the intent was always for the deadline to be thesecond Tuesday, as it is in other cities. “I think it was just an inadvertent oversight,” she said.”There would be no reason for it to be different inPortsmouth.” Lucas said she did not know who was responsible for the wording. Led Fluorescent Tube Lights
A commission of residents and lawyers reviewed almost all therevisions to the charter before it went to Richmond. But the draftthey produced, and which the City Council approved, did not includethe November election move or a June filing deadline. A note in thedraft says revisions will be necessary if elections are moved toNovember. City Attorney Tim Oksman assisted in the charter revision process,which also was overseen by the state’s Division of LegislativeServices. AR111 LED Lamp
He told council members that he could not offer advice onthe filing deadline, citing conflicts of interest as a councilappointee. Martha Brissette, a policy analyst for the State Board ofElections, said she expects the June 12 deadline to win out, partlyout of deference to any potential candidate’s constitutional rightto ballot access. However, she said, any candidate who files after June 5 and winswill run the risk of a court challenge by a losing candidate whofiled by the earlier deadline. Short, the registar, said Danny Meeks, a challenger who filedbefore June 5, told her office that the attorneys who called workedfor him.
Jason Miyares, a spokesman for Meeks’ campaign, said hiscandidate did not plan to take the matter to court. Short said she will recommend to the city’s Electoral Board – athree-member, politically appointed body that oversees localelections – to request an opinion from the state attorney general.Until then, she said, she will follow the advice of the State Boardof Elections to continue accepting candidate petitions until 7 p.m.Tuesday. Dave Forster, 757-446-2627, email@example.com.