VA GOP Primary: what a mess!

My latest op-ed appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Wednesday. One of the challenges in writing for the newspaper is to include timely information while not being overtaken by events. I suspected that a court challenge or two might be filed but as of 9am Tuesday morning – my deadline – nothing had yet occurred. Of course, Tuesday evening Rick Perry filed his lawsuit and Wednesday, he filed an emergency order to be included on the ballot.

Newt Gingrich has done a whole lot of huffing and puffing but has yet to actually file any legal action to be included. I suspect he won’t; after all, he already looked like an idiot by saying he was going to pursue a write-in campaign – which he can’t do under Virginia law. He followed up that “oops” with another – claiming that “fraud” on the part of one signature-gatherer cost him a place on the ballot. A number of reports coming out of the RPV during the counting process indicated that Gingrich petitions lacking addresses were tossed. Is that “fraud”? Or a simple misunderstanding of the process by the State Board of Elections, the RPV and those gathering signatures?

The section of Virginia code relating to the presidential primary is § 24.2-545. While the code says that the SBE is charged with designing the petition form, nowhere in that section is there a requirement that addresses be included. It does appear in § 24.2-506, but that section clearly does not apply to presidential primaries – note that the office is not listed there. If the RPV did toss Gingrich petitions because of the lack of addresses, I believe they erred.

The truth, though, is that the petition deadline and requisite certification was poorly timed. There is no reason why this process was scheduled to take place over the Christmas holiday. It wasn’t the number of signatures that created this problem – after all, as this editorial points out, it’s going to take 12,000 petition signatures to force a vote on elected school boards in Norfolk – it was the timing. There was no time, for example, for a candidate to challenge the reasons the petitions were discarded.

And maybe, just maybe, one person would not have lost her life.

In all honesty, I expected the Republican Party of Virginia to find a way to put these two on the ballot, despite their failure to obtain the necessary signatures. After all, the certification lies with the RPV, and what constitutes sufficiency is left in their hands. The RPV has, instead, dug its heels in. There is no time, as others have said, for legislative action, despite efforts on the part of some to pursue it.

As the result, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will appear on the March 6 primary ballot.

To add insult to injury, the RPV has decided to invoke the “loyalty oath” provisions allowed under the code. Supposedly, State Central voted on December 3 – just days outside of the 90-day window – to include this, even though the SBE didn’t vote on it until yesterday. Personally, I find that rather curious, because if this was the case, how come we are just hearing about it now? Rare is the occasion where a bombshell like this escapes notice of everybody. But I have confirmed with someone that I trust who was there that the vote did occur. Guess they were good about keeping it quiet.

Even worse, though, is that the provision even exists in the code. How can you ask all Virginia taxpayers to pay for a primary and then only allow some to participate? I have no problem with closed primaries – as long as the parties pay for them themselves.

I know this isn’t the first time that loyalty oaths were required: they were also used in the 2000 Republican presidential primary. While I don’t remember signing it, I must have as I did vote in that primary. And as long as I’m paying for it, I intend to vote in this one, too.

I’ve heard all the arguments about Republicans choose their own candidate – and I ain’t buying them. My reason for voting in March 2012 is the same as my reason for voting in 2000: somebody is going to win the presidency in November and I’d like that person to be the best choice possible.

No, my vote will not go to the candidate I think is the easiest to beat. That’s not my style. Without knowing what things will look like in November 2012, my vote will go to the candidate who I think is best suited to be president of all of us.

I believed in 2000 that John McCain as president was preferable to George Bush, even though I hoped that Al Gore was going to win. Had he made the ballot, my vote in March would have gone to Jon Huntsman, because of the entire Republican field, I believe him to be the best choice.

I don’t know how I’m going to vote in March with just Romney and Paul on the ballot. But, loyalty oath be damned, I intend to. Because the possibility exists that one of those guys could be elected president. And as a taxpayer in Virginia, I intend to have my voice be heard in the process.

UPDATE: Since writing this, I have received information that the Gingrich petitions were tossed for reasons other than just addresses. In fact, my sources say that it was fraud, that names and addresses were copied from some source – maybe a phone book – all in the same handwriting. In addition, I’m told that Perry turned in maybe 2,000 signatures, not the 6,000 he claimed in his lawsuit nor the 11,911 first reported.

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15 thoughts on “VA GOP Primary: what a mess!

  1. Crikey. This is making me believe that the signature requirements should be kept. If campaigns can’t honestly come up with 10,000 legitimate signatures state-wide, they have no business being in the race.

    For heaven’s sake, signature gathering is an excellent opportunity to go canvassing! It gives you a reason to be at a voter’s door!

    I make it a point to sign every petition offered to me, unless I know that the candidate is not legally qualified (like the guy who keeps trying to get on the ballot, even though he lost his voting rights).

    1. I’m the same way. I’ll sign any petition to get someone on the ballot. Here in Fairfax, we used to have Levi Levy, who ran for just about every office there was. He left very amusing position papers — which looked like bumper-sticker slogans typed out on an old-fashioned typewriter to small blocks, cut out, pasted together, and photocopied. Very amusing. I miss him.

  2. If in fact there is a requirement for a specific number of signatures be from within each of the eleven Congressional districts, how can that be verified if an address column is not on the petition form? Just asking.

    1. There is a column for residential address, which they can check if they have access to the voter file, which RPV surely does. SBE used to require that petitions be separated by CD and locality for ease of checking but they had to drop that rule. Ralph Nader complained in 2004 that it wasn’t required by statute and the AG agreed.

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