Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 24.2. Elections
Chapter 6. The Election
8/5/2021

Article 5. Special Elections.

§ 24.2-681. How special elections superintended and determined.

All special elections shall be superintended and held, notice thereof given, ballots prepared, returns made and certified, votes canvassed, results ascertained and made known, and certificates of election given, by the same officers, under the same penalties, and subject to the same regulations as prescribed for general elections, except as otherwise provided by law.

Code 1950, § 24-140; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-164; 1973, c. 30; 1993, c. 641.

§ 24.2-682. Times for special elections.

A. Notwithstanding any charter or special act to the contrary, the following provisions govern the times for holding special elections. Every special election shall be held on a Tuesday. No special election shall be held within the 55 days prior to a general or primary election. No special election shall be held on the same day as a primary election. A special election may be held on the same day as a general election.

B. A referendum election shall be ordered at least 81 days prior to the date for which the referendum election is called.

C. A special election to fill a vacancy in any constitutional office shall be held promptly and in accordance with the requirements of subsection A.

Code 1950, §§ 24-44, 24-136, 24-137, 24-138, 24-139, 24-141, 24-346; 1956, c. 378; 1966, c. 115; 1970, c. 462, §§ 24.1-1(5)(c), 24.1-163, 24.1-165; 1971, Ex. Sess., c. 119; 1972, c. 620; 1973, c. 30; 1974, c. 428; 1975, c. 515; 1976, c. 616; 1977, c. 30; 1978, cc. 258, 304, 778; 1979, c. 37; 1980, c. 639; 1981, c. 367; 1982, cc. 498, 650; 1983, c. 461; 1989, c. 322; 1991, c. 592; 1991, 1st Sp. Sess., c. 12; 1993, c. 641; 2000, cc. 787, 1070; 2008, cc. 107, 385; 2010, cc. 431, 542.

§ 24.2-683. Writ for special election to fill a vacancy.

Whenever the Governor, Speaker of the House, President pro tempore of the Senate, or either house of the General Assembly orders a special election, he, or the person designated to act for the house, shall issue a writ of election designating the office to be filled at the election and the time to hold the election. He shall transmit the writ to the secretary of the electoral board and the general registrar of each county or city in which the election is to be held. Each general registrar shall post a copy of the writ on the official website for the county or city or at not less than 10 public places or have notice of the election published once in a newspaper of general circulation in his jurisdiction at least 10 days before the election. If the special election is held in more than one county or city, the general registrars may act jointly to have the notice published once before the election in the affected jurisdictions.

Whenever a special election is ordered to fill a vacancy otherwise than under the preceding paragraph, the officer ordering the election shall issue his writ of election at the time the vacancy occurs, designating the office to be filled at the election and the time and place to hold the election. He shall direct and transmit the writ to the secretary of the electoral board and the general registrar of each county or city in which the election is to be held. The general registrar, or general registrars if the election will be held in more than one county or city, shall proceed to cause public notice to be given of the election in the same manner as is required in the preceding paragraph.

A copy of any order calling a special election to fill a vacancy shall be sent immediately to the State Board.

Code 1950, §§ 24-138, 24-139; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-163; 1974, c. 428; 1975, c. 515; 1993, c. 641; 2003, c. 155; 2016, cc. 18, 492.

§ 24.2-684. How referendum elections called and held, and the results ascertained and certified.

Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or charter to the contrary, the provisions of this section shall govern all referenda.

No referendum shall be placed on the ballot unless specifically authorized by statute or by charter.

Whenever any question is to be submitted to the voters of any county, city, town, or other local subdivision, the referendum shall in every case be held pursuant to a court order as provided in this section. The court order calling a referendum shall state the question to appear on the ballot in plain English as that term is defined in § 24.2-687. The order shall be entered and the election held within a reasonable period of time subsequent to the receipt of the request for the referendum if the request is found to be in proper order. The court order shall set the date for the referendum in conformity with the requirements of § 24.2-682.

A copy of the court order calling a referendum shall be sent immediately to the State Board by the clerk of the court in which the order was issued.

The ballot shall be prepared by the appropriate general registrar and distributed to the appropriate precincts. On the day fixed for the referendum, the regular election officers shall open the polls and take the sense of the qualified voters of the county, city, town, or other local subdivision, as the case may be, on the question so submitted. The ballots for use at any such election shall be printed to state the question as follows:

"(Here state briefly the question submitted)

[ ] Yes

[ ] No"

The ballots shall be printed, marked, and counted and returns made and canvassed as in other elections. The results shall be certified by the secretary of the appropriate electoral board to the State Board, to the court ordering the election, and to such other authority as may be proper to accomplish the purpose of the election.

Code 1950, § 24-141; 1966, c. 115; 1970, c. 462, § 24.1-165; 1974, c. 428; 1975, c. 515; 1976, c. 616; 1978, cc. 258, 304; 1979, c. 37; 1980, c. 639; 1981, c. 367; 1982, cc. 498, 650; 1983, c. 461; 1991, c. 592; 1993, c. 641; 1994, c. 142; 1996, c. 297; 2016, cc. 18, 492.

§ 24.2-684.1. Requirements for voter petitions to call for referendum elections.

In addition to other applicable requirements of law, the following requirements shall apply whenever a referendum election is initiated by voter petitions. The requirements of this section shall be construed to override any requirement of general or special law in conflict with this section, except requirements set out in charter provisions to govern the exercise of recall, initiative, or referendum powers in a county, city, or town.

The requirements of this section shall apply to petitions calling for any referendum which is ordered to be held on or after January 1, 1994.

1. Prior to circulating any petition for signature, an individual shall file a copy of the petition with the clerk of the circuit court for the county or city in which the referendum will be held. The individual shall be a qualified voter of the county or city and shall file, with the petition copy, a statement giving his name; residence address and, if different, his mailing address; and the name of the organization, if any, which he represents in circulating the petition. The copy of the petition shall be filed on or after the effective date of the law which authorizes the referendum for which the petition will be circulated. The clerk shall certify, within 10 days of such filing, that he has received and accepted the petition copy and statement.

2. If the referendum will be held only in a town, the copy and statement shall be filed with the clerk of the circuit court for the county in which the town, or larger portion of the town, is located, and the individual shall be a qualified voter of the town. If the referendum will be held only in part of a county, city, or town, the copy and statement shall be filed with the clerk of the appropriate circuit court, and the individual shall be a qualified voter of the part of the county, city, or town in which the referendum will be held. If the referendum will be held in more than one county, city, or town, the copy and statement shall be filed with the clerk of the circuit court of any one of the localities in which the referendum will be held, and the individual shall be a qualified voter of that locality.

3. Each qualified voter signing a petition shall date his signature.

4. Each such voter may provide on the petition the last four digits of his social security number, if any; however, noncompliance with this requirement shall not be cause to invalidate the voter's signature on the petition.

5. Each signature on the petition shall be witnessed by a person who is qualified to vote, or qualified to register to vote, in the referendum for which he is circulating the petition and whose affidavit to that effect, including his name, residence address and, if different, his mailing address, and the name of the organization, if any, that he represents in circulating the petition, appears on each page, front and back, of the petition.

6. The petition shall be circulated, completed, and filed with the appropriate court or authority within nine months of the date of the certification by the clerk of the circuit court pursuant to subdivision 1.

7. Each qualified voter signing the petition shall have been validly registered in the jurisdiction for which the petition is circulated at the time of signing the petition and at the time of validating the petition signatures.

8. The number of voters registered on January 1 of the year of the certification by the clerk of the circuit court pursuant to subdivision 1 shall be the basis for determining the number of signatures required on the petition in all cases in which the law authorizing the referendum provides that the number of signatures required for the petition is a percentage of the number of registered voters.

9. If the court or authority finds that the filed petitions are valid and sufficient under law, it shall proceed, as provided by law, to order or call for the referendum election. If the court or authority finds that the filed petitions are invalid for any cause, the petitions and the signatures on them shall be invalid for all purposes. The invalidity of one or more signatures on a petition page shall not be cause to invalidate the entire petition page. If the circulators of the petitions fail to file within the nine-month period provided in subdivision 6, the petitions and the signatures on them shall be invalid for all purposes.

1993, c. 996, § 24.1-165.3; 1993, c. 641; 2000, cc. 232, 252; 2011, cc. 333, 520.

§ 24.2-685. Special elections; request for abolition of constitutional offices.

A. The provisions of this section shall be applicable to the holding of any referendum, elsewhere authorized by law, on the abolition of any constitutional office conducted prior to a request for a special act of the General Assembly to abolish such office.

B. Notwithstanding any other provision of general law or any special act, no referendum subject to the provisions of this section shall be held unless:

1. Petitions are filed with the circuit court of the county or city requesting that a referendum be held to authorize a request for a special act on the abolition of the named office;

2. The petitions are signed by qualified voters of the county or city equal in number to 20 percent of the total vote cast in the county or city for presidential electors in the last preceding presidential election; and

3. The petitions are filed with the court within 90 days of the first signature on the petitions, and the petitions show the date each signature was affixed.

C. Upon filing of a valid petition, the court shall order the election and state the question to be placed on the ballot in its order. The court shall order the referendum to be held at the next general election for members of the governing body of the county or city held at least 81 days after the date of the order.

D. After a referendum is conducted pursuant to this section with respect to the abolition of a particular office, no other referendum with respect to the abolition of the same office shall be held in the same county or city pursuant to this section for a period of eight years.

E. No special act authorizing the abolition of any such office shall be considered by the General Assembly without court certification that a referendum has been conducted pursuant to this section and that a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon have approved the request for a special act.

1985, c. 586, § 24.1-165.1; 1993, c. 641; 2011, c. 599.

§ 24.2-686. Special elections; petition and referendum requirements; abolition of constitutional office by change in form of government.

The provisions of § 24.2-685 shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to any county seeking to change its form of government pursuant to Chapter 3 (§ 15.2-300 et seq.) of Title 15.2 if the effect of such change in form would be the abolition of an existing office created pursuant to Section 4 of Article VII of the Constitution of Virginia. In such case, the circuit court may order a referendum under § 15.2-301 only if requested by a voter petition meeting the requirements of § 24.2-685. In such case, a question in substantially the following form shall be listed first on the ballot and be followed by those provided in § 15.2-301:

"Shall the County of ______________ be authorized to change its form of government to one which would eliminate the elected office(s) of ______________?"

An affirmative vote on the subsequent question or questions on the ballot shall be given effect only if a majority of those voting in the referendum have voted affirmatively on the first question to authorize such a change in the form of government.

1995, cc. 761, 808, 825.

§ 24.2-687. Authorization for distribution of information on referendum elections.

A. The governing body of any county, city or town may provide for the preparation and printing of an explanation for each referendum question to be submitted to the voters of the county, city or town to be distributed at the polling places on the day of the referendum election. The governing body may have the explanation published by paid advertisement in a newspaper with general circulation in the county, city or town one or more times preceding the referendum.

The explanation shall contain the ballot question and a statement of not more than 500 words on the proposed question. The explanation shall be presented in plain English, shall be limited to a neutral explanation, and shall not present arguments by either proponents or opponents of the proposal. The attorney for the county, city or town or, if there is no county, city or town attorney, the attorney for the Commonwealth shall prepare the explanation. "Plain English" means written in nontechnical, readily understandable language using words of common everyday usage and avoiding legal terms and phrases or other terms and words of art whose usage or special meaning primarily is limited to a particular field or profession.

If the referendum question involves the issuance of bonds by a locality, the locality shall provide for such printed explanation. The explanation shall (i) state the estimated maximum amount of the bonds proposed to be issued, and (ii) state the proposed use of the bond proceeds, and if there is more than one use, state the proposed uses for which more than 10 percent of the total bond proceeds is expected to be used.

B. Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit a county, city or town from disseminating other neutral materials or advertisements concerning issues of public concern that are the subject of a referendum; however, the materials or advertisements shall not advocate the passage or defeat of the referendum question.

C. This section shall not be applicable to statewide referenda.

D. Any failure to comply with the provisions of this section shall not affect the validity of the referendum.

1996, c. 297; 2004, cc. 21, 399; 2006, c. 302; 2011, c. 590.