HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A group in Hanover County is pushing for the option to elect school board members, and with the help of lawmakers they could have another way to make it happen.

The House of Delegates passed a bill on Tuesday which authorizes local governments to petition a circuit court to order a ballot referendum. The referendum would give people the chance to vote on whether they think school board members should be elected directly by voters.

Hanover County and Hopewell City Public Schools are two of the few school divisions left in the state with an appointed school board. Before this bill was introduced, Virginia State Code said 10% of a locality’s registered voters can petition the circuit court to order a ballot referendum.

Hanover Citizens for an Elected Board, a local advocacy group, has been trying to make this happen by collecting signatures on their own. Tim McDermott, a volunteer with the group, said 10% of their registered voters would amount to about 9,000 signatures.

“I don’t know why Hanover County has not moved in that direction. We’ve got great schools,” he said.

He said the group failed to get a referendum on the ballot last November, but this year they’re more confident.

“I like increased opportunity for people to be engaged in elected politics and I see that this is another avenue for that,” he said.

At this point, the group has collected one-third of the needed signatures.

“To me, it encourages people to run for elected office. In our country and I think, more today than ever, that that’s helpful,” McDermott said.

The bill still has to go through the senate and get signed by governor Glenn Younkin before it becomes law.