CHESAPEAKE, Va. — On a hot Saturday in May, crowds of people gathered at the Chesapeake Jubilee, the city’s largest outdoor event.
But beyond the colorful carnival rides, there was a large vendor tent.
Tucked away amongst rows of booths, Jeanne Hanewich, the founder of Change the Date Chesapeake, was collecting petition signatures from Jubilee-goers.
For months, Hanewich and a group of volunteers have worked on a grassroots effort aimed toward giving Chesapeake voters the option to move mayoral, City Council, and School Board elections from May to November.
Hanewich said the date change would make voting easier for voters.
“They want convenience,” said Hanewich.
“They wanna vote once a year and everybody’s really busy.”
The non-partisan group needs 15,542 signatures to get the referendum on the November ballot.
Hanewich said the group has collected nearly half of the signatures they need, but their deadline is quickly approaching.
In order to get the question on the ballot, the group needs to collect enough signatures by July 18th.
The Chesapeake Jubilee is their big push to get more people to sign the petition.
“The progress is going really good,” said Hanewich.
“The community input is that most people are in favor of this because it just makes common sense.”
Sandra Hart, a Chesapeake resident who attended the jubilee was easily convinced about the Hanewich’s cause.
Hart is one of many Jubilee-goers who signed the petition on Saturday.
"I think it's a great idea that way we can just go there one time, get it over with then go on,” said Hart.
According to Mary Lynn Pinkerman, Voter Registrar for the city of Chesapeake, only 15 percent of registered voters exercised their right to vote in May of 2018. The turnout was a 40 percent lower turnout than the elections in November when turnout was 56 percent.
“We're trying to do a positive thing for our city because it'll increase the amount of people that vote for the mayor, city council and school board,” said Hanewich.
“It saves our city money, and it's more convenient for our citizens.”
Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth have already moved their local elections to November.
Hanewich and volunteers for Change the Date Chesapeake will be collecting signatures at the Chesapeake Jubilee all weekend.
Hanewich said the group plans to continue gathering signatures at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and there are a couple of other events they’ll attend in early July in order to reach voters.
If the group collects enough signatures by July 18th, the next step is for voters to decide whether or not they want to change the date to November.
If a majority of voters support the date change, it’ll become law as soon as the registrar certifies the results.