Virginia Republicans on Tuesday challenged the length of the “stay-at-home” order Gov. Ralph Northam issued, arguing that it will hamper some of the party’s June primaries.
Northam’s order, which went into effect Monday, seeks to further restrict public activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic by ordering people to stay home except for essentials. The order will remain in effect through June 10, one day past the state’s June 9 primaries.
Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Jack Wilson said in an interview Tuesday that Northam should “be more clear publicly so that voters know they are permitted to go vote on June 9.”
In a letter to Northam, Wilson said that the June 10 date was “arbitrary,” and conflicts with the Republican U.S. Senate primary, in which a handful of GOP candidates are vying to take on Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
Parties have until Tuesday night to certify candidates for the state’s June 9 primaries. Wilson said four candidates filed to qualify for the ballot to challenge Warner: Alissa Baldwin, Daniel Gade, Omari Faulkner and Thomas Speciale.
In congressional House races, Republicans will likely have two primary contests, Wilson said; Democrats will likely have four, Democratic Party of Virginia spokesman Grant Fox said.
“In these challenging times, we want to give the governor the freedom to make necessary decisions without partisan rancor, but the timeline seems all too convenient,” Wilson said, adding that an explanation as to why the date was chosen “would help to mitigate any concerns” that Northam is trying to engage in “voter suppression.”
The state Senate Republican Caucus in a Tuesday letter to Northam expressed similar skepticism.
“Your choice has struck us as curious,” wrote caucus leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment of James City County.
A spokeswoman for Northam, Alena Yarmosky, said the order doesn’t apply to “the operation of government,” which she said includes operating and participating in elections.
Wilson said in response: “I would encourage the governor to be more clear publicly.”
Yarmosky said the administration is encouraging Virginians to vote absentee by mail, “as we continue to evaluate options for the May and June elections.”
“I’d remind folks that this is not the time for partisan politics,” Yarmosky said. “The governor looks forward to continuing to work with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect the health and safety of Virginians.”
The Northam administration earlier this month encouraged all Virginians to vote absentee in the state’s May 5 municipal elections.
In the greater Richmond area, the town of Ashland is electing three council members, as is the town of Louisa.
“Voting absentee in the coming local May elections is strongly encouraged,” a memo on the state Department of Elections website reads. All voters can list “disability or illness” as the reason they are voting absentee.
The deadline to register to vote in that election is April 13. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 28.
Asked about the impact of his order on the state’s coming elections, Northam said his office would release “further guidelines, I would say, in the next few days.”