Not democracy

DemocracyNotFoundFrom last night:

And then there’s this:

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales and defense attorneys Mike Rosenberg and Ali Sprinkle had to work quickly to get their names on the ballot. They said they learned on Thursday of the election to replace former Commonwealth’s Attorney Earle Mobley and had to spend the weekend collecting signatures to get on the ballot by Monday’s [5pm] filing deadline.

[…]

The judges signed the order Wednesday, starting the five-day clock. Clerk Cynthia Morrison – the former head of the Portsmouth Democratic Party – said she received the order the following day and forwarded it to the city registrar, the city attorney, the city and state boards of elections and the Portsmouth Democratic Party. She said she would have also provided a copy to the Portsmouth Republican Party, but she didn’t know how to get in touch with its chairman.

There’s so much wrong here it’s hard to know where to start. The real culprit is this:

State law requires candidates to file within five days of the announcement if the election is within 60 days.

Five days is far too short a window.  And we wonder why people are turned off to politics.

The circumstances leading up to the nomination contest in the 74th House of Delegates district are well known. Current representative Joe Morrissey entered an Alford plea on charges on contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Bowing to calls from all corners for him to resign, Morrissey announced that he would do so – and then promptly announced he would run in the special election that would determine the next 74th district delegate.

The five-day window prompted a quick decision by the 74th district nominating committees from both parties. The Democrats chose a firehouse primary – but not the usual firehouse primary. From the call:

Participation: Every voting member of a local Democratic committee in the 74th House District of Virginia is urged to attend and participate.

Let me repeat: Are you kidding me? Only committee members get to vote?!?! That makes for a very small pool – in this case, estimated at 100 people, exposing one of the dirty secrets of politics: participation in local committees is a miniscule percentage of the people who align themselves with one party or another. How small?

According to vpap, there are 1,278 registered voters in Richmond. The entire district has over 50,000 registered voters, at least 70% of which are Democrats. Yet only 43 cast ballots last night. Do the math.

Portsmouth is a slightly different case. The Commonwealth’s Attorney was appointed to the bench, so everyone knew there would be a special election to fill the seat. The only question was when the election would be. In this case, the judges created the mess – abetted by the state code – by setting the election date of 2/10/15. Had they picked a later date, the 5-day rule wouldn’t have kicked in. Given the short window, neither party attempted to nominate a candidate. All three who filed will be on the ballot as independents.

This ain’t democracy, folks. The state code needs to be changed. Five days isn’t enough time to do much of anything, particularly so when those five days are during the holidays. But even when they aren’t, the window is so short as to eliminate most folks from even trying. And folks wonder why there’s no one to vote for on Election Day.

If an election is to be held within 60 days, the period for nomination should be at least 10 days, preferably 15.

It would be nice if the people actually got a chance to help pick the names that are on the ballot.

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