Judge denies Virginia Beach’s request to hold special council election under now-illegal voting system

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Virginia Beach will not be able to request a special election to fill the vacant City Council seat after a federal judge said it was not in “the public interest to hold a special election using an invalid system.”

The order issued Monday by Federal Judge Raymond Jackson means that while Virginia Beach City Council can go forward with their temporary appointment process of Kempsville district representative, there is no current path for voters to choose who they want in the seat.

Under state law, the council may appoint a person to fill a council seat within 45 days of it becoming vacant. Former Councilwoman Jessica Abbott resigned on July 2 for health reasons.

However, state law calls for the seat to ultimately be filled by a special election. Virginia law requires that special elections occur on the date of the next general election in November.

Right now, the city has no way to elected City Council members after Jackson ruled in March that the city’s former system — in which everyone can vote for all City Council and Virginia Beach School Board members regardless of what district they live in — violates the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965

While the judge will ultimately institute a new system while Virginia Beach appeals the ruling, it will not likely be in place by November.

So City Council asked if the old system could be used one last time because of the unforeseen circumstance.

They argued to the judge that not filling the seat “‘would inflict irreparable harm on the City and the public’ primarily because it frustrates the City’s application of state law governing, creates a council without a tie-breaking vote….”

“The Court is not persuaded that the Council cannot carry out the people’s business with only ten elected officials,” Jackson said in his order.

Councilman John Moss signaled on Facebook that the city wasn’t giving up just yet.

“The City Attorney on Council’s behalf at Council’s direction will file an appeal with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Moss said. “The saga continues.”

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