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Herndon Town Council talks possible elections changes, such as increasing term limits

Town of Herndon government offices (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Elections in the Town of Herndon could see some big changes as early as next year.

At a meeting earlier this week, Herndon Town Council began preliminary discussions on changes to elections, including the possibility of increasing and staggering the terms of office and instituting term limits.

Staff are also exploring the creation of town voting districts or wards, but council members said they would need to court significant public feedback before considering possible changes.

Any changes to the elections process could require updates to the town’s charter, town code and an amendment to the state’s constitution.

For example, increasing the terms of office would require amendments to the town charter and the town code, while staggered terms would only require an amendment to the town charter.

Term limits would require an amendment to the town charter and the state’s constitution. Town voting districts only requires an amendment to the town code.

If the town proceeds with any changes, the council will consider moving the legislation to the General Assembly. An ordinance, which must first be adopted by the town council, has to be forwarded to state legislators before Dec. 1 to be considered in the next session.

The earliest changes would go into effect is July 1, and the earliest town council terms would change is November 2024.

Councilmember Sean Regan said he would only want to move forward with the discussion if town residents favor changes. Other council members said they were unsure if it was worth investing town staff and resources into the endeavor.

Overall, the council leaned on exploring four-year terms on a staggered basis.

“We want to go with the voice of 24,000 people,” Regan said, adding that he wants to find out what the “pulse of the people” is on possible changes.

Currently, Herndon has no voting districts. Proceeding with proposed boundaries would require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most council members were wary of the proposal.

Councilmember Pradip Dhakal said he was concerned that proceeding with voting wards may not be suitable for a small town like the Town of Herndon.

“It seems so complicated for a small town,” concurred Councilmember Signe Friedrichs.

She also cautioned that it may be too early to consider changes, given the looming Dec. 1 deadline for submitting legislation.

Olem said separating the town into districts could result in divisiveness, with residents from specific areas pitted against each other.

Councilmember Jasbinder Singh — who originally pitched the idea — said the redevelopment of downtown Herndon takes up too much focus from the town and that more representation for other parts of town is needed.

“The energy is taken by the downtown,” said Singh.

Town Attorney Lesa Yeatts cautioned that opening the charter for amendments could result in other changes at the hands of General Assembly members.

“Sometimes, the General Assembly can take liberties and they can amend in ways that once its open, it’s open,” Yeatts said.

However, she noted that it’s much more likely that the General Assembly would deny or accept the proposal, not offer major changes.

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