The law of the Commonwealth clearly lay out the requirements and procedures necessary for a presidential candidate to obtain ballot access in the Virginia. Failure to understand, meet or comply with the code is simply poor practice on behalf of a candidate and campaign.
While upholding the current law and maintaining a code of ethics is vitally important, the law does need to be changed. The responsibility for validating the signatures of the petition signers rests with the state parties and it raises the questions of impartiality and accuracy.
During the 2008 primary, both the Republican and Democratic Parties of Virginia claimed to have validated over 120,000 signatures for the 12 candidates running for office that year. For this election, the Republican Party has admitted to scrutinizing the signatures more closely than they had in past elections. Further the RPV Chairman, Pat Mullins, publicly stated that if any candidate secured 15,000 signatures with 600 from each Congressional district, that he would waive the certification process and automatically validate that candidate and place their name directly on the ballot. Reliance and understanding of past practices is a terrible precedent, but perhaps the campaigns were prepared for the lack of scrutiny that was used in the past three presidential primary elections. This belief of how the system worked before the implementation of increased scrutiny led to challenges in court by Governor Rick Perry and Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The courts ultimately sided with the law over the plaintiffs and the ballots were left unchanged.
For many in Virginia, this was seen as a final blow to efforts across the state to have a full slate of names included on the ballot and to allow a comprehensive voice of democracy to be heard.
“The Commonwealth of Virginia has imposed one of the greatest injustices American voters have ever seen. The Republican party of Virginia, hid behind a ridiculously tedious law has only permitted two names onto the March Presidential Primary Ballot. The government and party officials in Virginia have failed to adhere to the true meaning of democracy by hiding behind complex and convoluted laws,” said Cameron Sasnett, CEO and founder of Elect-Logic.
Sasnett, who founded Elect-Logic early last year, has worked as a consultant with the Virginia State Board of Elections, is a board member with the Victory Fund and worked with the Stonewall Democrats, has come up with an idea to change the future and hopefully create a conversation in this country. He is calling this effort “Smite the Vote” which was developed in response to a democratic system that has disenfranchised voters through an immense amount of bureaucracy and red-tape created by those who should have been the stewards of an open democracy.
“While it has been demonstrated that the Commonwealth’s government is strong, it has become obvious that the strength has come at the expense of fair and adequate elections for primary voters. This election is the perfect opportunity to take back democracy from the tyrannical clutches of a system that has bypassed what is most important: the voters,” he continued.
With close to 200 “pop-up” locations throughout Virginia on primary day, Smite the Vote will be a way to engage nearly 750,000 voters in Virginia and give them a ballot they’re party and government wouldn’t. Working with nearly 3,000 volunteers dedicated to the cause of re-empowering the true meaning of democracy this action will give voice those who feel tossed aside.
“In the spirit of the principles for which our country was founded and to reinforce the that “governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” it is important to ensure that the idea democracy is preserved far above the structures of government for which it is intended,” said a source close to Virginia party politics.
We must keep in mind that this is a unique circumstance. Clearly the law is the law. However, there is substantial reasoning and evidence that the voters and tax-payers of the Commonwealth would be better served by the inclusion of more than two candidates on their primary ballot in March. If the law is left the way that it is, it ultimately reduces Virginia’s strength in the national political process. In the future, candidates may not even bother to spend time and money in the Virginia, which will limit voters from a representative standpoint, and in particular LGBT candidates such as Fred Karger who skipped the state altogether.
Virginia has been the home to eight former US Presidents, elected its first gay man to State Senate, has fought to protect core values of American principles and continues to be a voice on the national scene. It is important that Virginia continues to be a pillar of democracy. To be an advocate of such democracy Virginia must practice the fundamentals of such democracy and shed the onerous rules that prevent anyone from standing up and fighting for such inequalities.
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