Residents of six rural Virginia counties voted to keep local Confederate monuments in place on Tuesday. The referenda are non-binding, but demonstrate voter preference to the local boards of supervisors. In four of the counties, over 70 percent of voters chose to keep the monuments, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP). Two counties were closer; Charles City County voted against removing its monument by 55.11 percent, while Halifax County voted against relocating its monument by 59.69 percent.
“The county vote was an advisory referendum. It is still up to the Board of Supervisors to determine whether to remove the monument,” Halifax County Supervisor William Clairborne wrote in an email to The Virginia Star.
The referenda are part of new authority to remove monuments that the General Assembly granted to localities in 2020. House Bill 1537 amended Virginia law removing language that made it illegal for local authorities “to disturb or interfere with any monuments or memorials.” The amendment also changed wording from “War Between the States” to “Civil War.”
The new legislation requires authorities to give 30 days notice and a public hearing before authorities vote on removing the monuments, and then requires authorities to offer the monuments to local organizations for 30 days before removing the monument. It also allows authorities to choose to hold advisory referenda like the ones held in Charles City County, Franklin County, Halifax County, Lunenburg County, Tazewell County, and Warren County.
The referenda results contrast with decisions in more urban parts of the state, including in Richmond, where according to NBC12, Mayor Levar Stoney controversially used emergency powers to remove monuments without fulfilling the requirements of the new law. Other Virginia cities have opted not to hold a referendum before removing the monuments.
“Whatever citizens say is where I am going,” Tazewell Supervisor Mike Hymes told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (BDT.)
“We as a board want to hear the citizens,” Tazewell Supervisor Travis Hackworth told the BDT. “We can hear and see what the will of the constituents is.”
In Halifax, Clairborne said that despite the referendum results, he will fight against keeping his community’s monument. In his email, he wrote, “MY POSITION STILL REMAINS THAT IT SHOULD BE REMOVED. I WILL CONTINUE TO ARGUE FOR ITS RELOCATION.”
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