Did a little known Virginia law change screw Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry?

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    (Interesting, although personally I think they mainly screwed themselves, through gross incompetence. – promoted by lowkell)

    by Paul Goldman

    Even given the questionable legal and constitutional aspects of how the Virginia Republican Party reviewed the petition filings of their GOP presidential hopefuls, all of them might have made the ballot but for a little known change in Virginia law. This statutory change, passed in 2010 by the General Assembly, altered a crucial part of the petition gathering process, making it harder for candidates to get the 10,000 valid signatures required for listing on the March 2012 GOP presidential primary ballot.

    It is a change that only a handful of people in Virginia, or nationally, would appreciate in terms of its real-world effect on the presidential primary process here in the Commonwealth. The change, while legal and properly pre-cleared with the Justice Department under the Voting Right Acts, has had an unintended, but self-evidentially devastating impact on two of the four leading candidates for the GOP nomination.

    How so, you ask? For the 2008 GOP presidential primary, state law said candidates had until 60 days before the primary to submit the required 10,000 signatures. But for the upcoming GOP primary, our petition gathering law has been changed; the new language, added in 2010, now says these petitions must be submitted to the State Board of Elections 75 days prior to the primary date.

     

    This loss of 15 days of petition gathering at such a key point in the process – the nomination fight is heating up – cost Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry many thousands of signatures each in my experience.

    Moreover, the State Board of Elections kept the starting date for signature gathering the same in 2012 as it had been in 2008 — July 1 of the previous year. So in effect, the GOP candidate in this cycle lost not only 15 days of overall petition gathering, but those key 15 days when their petition drive would likely be the most productive.

    When you add the overall nature of Virginia’s restrictive rules, the use of questionable review standards and procedures by the state parties as  permitted by their loose interpretation of state law, the lack of any oversight by the State Board of Election as prohibited by state law, and now the loss of several key weeks of petition gathering, it is no wonder our system is about to disenfranchise so many Virginians in terms of their ability to exercise the right to vote for the candidate of their choice.

    In terms of practical politics, it would seem the loss of those 15 days, in little known legislation failing to take into account the real-world impact on Virginia’s presidential nomination process, might make us the laughing stock of America come this March if the GOP is having a real contest, and if Virginia only has Mitt Romney and Ron Paul on the ballot.