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This is a fascinating column in Blue Virginia by noted VA Democratic political adviser Paul Goldman.  Here’s the summary:

Moreover: There is still time to make this change this year. The Governor should order the State Board of Elections to wait before starting to print the ballot. Based on my experience, they can wait until the middle of January 2012. This gives time for the General Assembly to change the law.

Democrats should help out here. It is not about Bachmann, Gingrich, Huntsman, Perry or Santorium. It is about the people and their right to choose. The shoe might be on the other foot someday for us Democrats. It also helps underscore the risk with all these ID laws which seem to have a partisan motivation.

We need as open and fair a process for the people, that’s the goal. Right now, the projected GOP presidential primary ballot doesn’t meet this standard. We can change it in time for the March GOP primary in 2012. The people win, no one loses. It just takes a little extra work.

I agree with Paul Goldman (may be first and last time I do so!  But he’s right!) we need to prevent this being a joke.  I think the RP campaign should take the initiative and ask the RPV to allow at least Gingrich and Perry on the ballot and look into legal options.

Another view, this time from Bearing Drift, from a respected colleague Rick Sincere, looks into a different aspect of the primary crisis – ballot access

The most obvious reform would be to reduce the signature requirement. One possibility is to change the statewide threshold to 5,000 signatures, with 200 signatures from each of 6 of the 11 congressional districts.

Absent that basic reform, I recommend that Virginia offer these as alternative methods of entry to the primary election ballot:

(1) Candidates may choose to meet the current requirements of 10,000 signatures statewide plus 400 in each of the eleven congressional districts.
(2) Candidates may choose to present 5,000/200 signatures, plus a filing fee of $5,000.
(3) Candidates may forego the signature requirement entirely and instead pay a filing fee of $10,000.
(4) Candidates may forego the signature requirement entirely and instead present an affidavit showing that, according to the Federal Election Commission, they have received a minimum of $100,000 in contributions from Virginia residents.

These suggestions are not exhaustive. Other permutations might be possible.

Let the conversation begin so that we can produce substantive reform to the process well before the beginning of the 2016 presidential campaign cycle (that is, by Wednesday, November 7, 2012).

I say don’t even wait that long.  And finally we have thanks to Rick Sincere and Bearing Drift, a blog view from an election lawyer (which I am not!) that Virginia’s ballot access laws are in deed “unreasonable”:

Virginia’s statutory ballot access requirement is, quite simply, one of if not the most daunting in the country:  A minimum of 10,000 petition signatures collected statewide, including at least 400 from each of its 11 congressional districts.  That’s hard enough.  But then there are the additional restrictions:  The petition circulators must be registered or eligible to vote in Virginia.  The signatures must be gathered using the State Board of Elections’ official form, a two-page document which must be reproduced as double-sided.  (Single-sided stapled forms are not accepted.)  Signatures must be collected on forms that are specific to each city, county and congressional district.  Only “qualified” voters may sign a petition.  And every single petition form must be sworn and notarized.

Chris Ashby, Esq., also suggests that the RPV’s presumption that if you have 15,000 signatures and 600 from each congressional district you are in compliance and they do not check signatures violates the Equal Protection Clause in Bush v. Gore.

Let me add my two cents worth.  When I ran for Delegate in 1989 in the primary, I had to pay a fee equal to 3% of the salary of the office I was running for.  (I think it was $300 and my campaign treasurer paid it for me!)  When a recent candidate for Commonwealth’s Attorney in Hanover wanted to run in the GOP primary, he had to pay 3% of about $150,000.  (That’s $4500!  I think he paid $3500 so it must have been less than $150,000.)  That also hinders ballot access based on ability to pay but I understand you can run as an independent and not pay the fee.

Something must be done.  The Virginia primary is a joke.  If Ron Paul wins, and he can do so as the anti-establishment candidate or the protest candidate, he carries the state delegates (subject to proportionality rules) at the national convention.  (There are other delegates selected at the eleven congressional district conventions, too.)  But I want the process to be right and Ron Paul win!  Time to do something.  Either a lawsuit or a bill passed quickly in the new GA session.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. Marc Montoni says:

    I agree with Mr Foerster. These laws were originally written to keep independents and third parties off the ballot. These guys have all been supportive of restrictive ballot access. If it trips them up in turn, I don't have much sympathy.

    Primaries are essentially state subsidies for political parties, the proper response to this situation is to eliminate government-run primaries altogether so that parties have to sponsor their own nomination process.

    That said, if we can't privatize the nomination process, then the only reform should be to reduce the petition requirement (for all candidates and parties) to 1/10th of the current number, rounded up to the next nearest 10. This would reduce statewide petitions to 1,000 signatures for president, governor, US Senate, etc; and congress to 100 signatures; Delegate to 20 signatures.

    I have collected thousands of petition signatures on both major and minor ballot drives.

    Anyone who thinks petition requirements are compatible with a free society needs to research the history and justifications for these oppressive laws a bit more.

    One of the more disturbing aspects of this is the opinion of some that a candidate doesn't deserve to be able to appeal to voters unless they're organized enough to get __________ volunteers to waste several of their weekends collecting signatures. Do you not realize this plays right into the hands of the corrupt media, who spoon-feed candidates to the American public? Do you *really* want the media to decide not only who wins, but even who gets to compete?

    Forcing alternative candidates — who haven't been given the chance to appear in the modern "public square" that is the media — to utterly exhaust themselves collecting signatures is a reprehensible practice in a society that bills itself as "free".

    I do not agree that governments have any authority to print ballots at all. Open ballots not printed or controlled by governments at all gave us men like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

    Compare them — even with all of their faults — to the modern crop of corruptocrats.

  2. Lester Gabriel says:

    Although I do not like the choices I now have on the VA primary ballot, I do think that changing the rules in the middle of the game is not the right way to go. What we need to do is to 1) look at whatever rule or law it is that forces? delegates to vote for the winner of the primary (or a proportion thereof) on the first ballot at the Convention. Is it a State law or is it just a long-held tradition? If the latter, then we could solve the problem by electing as our Delegates people who will commit them selves to voting for the best candidate still in the running at the time of the convention. In any case we need delegates have integrity and courage as our delegates, because they will be voting their consciences on the second and subsequent ballots.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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