Skip to comments.Virginia Must Change Its Election System
Posted on 12/28/2011 7:17:08 AM PST by Kaslin
When I managed Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign in 1996, I learned that some states conducted fair and honest caucuses and primaries and that some did not.
Iowa, historically the first caucus state, and New Hampshire, historically the first primary state, conducted their political business fairly. New York did not.
Today Virginia's political system is beginning to resemble New York's in 1996.
To get on the Republican primary ballot in New York that year, a candidate needed to submit signatures from 1,250 registered Republican voters in each of the state's 31 congressional districts or signatures from 5 percent of registered Republicans in a district if that number were less than 1,250.
But that was not all. Only a registered Republican living in the district or a notary public could collect signatures; they could gather signatures only between Thanksgiving and Jan. 4; and signatures could be challenged by opposing campaigns.
As The New York Times reported then, petitions could be disqualified for technicalities -- for example, if they were bound "with paper clips instead of staples."
Early in 1995, virtually the entire New York Republican establishment -- including then-Gov. George Pataki and then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato -- endorsed then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas for the Republican presidential nomination. They made clear that they wanted to lock other candidates out of New York's primary and award Dole New York's delegates without giving the grass roots of their own party any say in the matter.
"New York State's party chairman, William Powers, vows to have the party's full complement of 33,000 committee people out circulating petitions for Mr. Dole, which will make it hard for other candidates to find Republican field workers," The New York Times reported March 30, 1995. "Candidates who try to provide voters with a choice by circulating nominating petitions will also be tortured by ballot-wise lawyers ready to raise every nit in New York's nitpicking election law to get their petitions declared invalid."
This confronted Dole's rivals with a strategic dilemma.
On the one hand, attempting to get on New York's ballot would carry enormous costs. A candidate could either pay massive sums to hire people to circulate petitions or build a massive grass-roots army of in-state volunteers. The first means would take money that a non-establishment candidate could not readily spare from earlier contests. The second would drain operatives and institutional focus from those contests.
On the other hand, a candidate who failed to qualify for New York's ballot not only would lose any chance at winning some of New York's delegates but also might sustain a momentum-draining public relations hit -- just a few weeks before the all-important initial contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. The press and opponents could say: "He is not a serious candidate. He did not even get on the ballot in New York."
Some major candidates -- including then-Sen. Phil Gramm and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander -- decided not to compete in New York.
Buchanan and Steve Forbes did.
The Buchanan Brigades built a grass-roots army of 800 volunteers backed up by field organizers the campaign diverted from early primary and caucus states, notably Iowa.
When the Jan. 4 deadline came, Buchanan submitted sufficient signatures to qualify in 17 congressional districts. Forbes qualified in all 31.
Then the Dole campaign started challenging Buchanan's and Forbes' petitions.
A federal appeals court ruling eventually allowed Forbes to remain on the ballot in 31 districts and gave Buchanan access in 23.
The night of that 1996 primary, according to the New York Daily News, Sen. D'Amato said, "To those Republicans who felt the process could have been a fairer one, you were absolutely right."
"In hindsight," D'Amato said, "I probably should have asked the Legislature to consider opening up the primary system and consider making it easier for a legitimate candidate to get on the ballot."
Nowadays it is easier to qualify for New York's presidential primary.
But in Virginia, according to a law the Virginia State Board of Elections says was enacted in 1998, a candidate must submit at least 10,000 signatures from registered voters who intend to vote in the primary. Among these there must be at least 400 from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts. The signatures must be gathered after July 1, submitted by Dec. 22 and certified by the state chairman of the party in question.
Facing these criteria, only four Republican presidential candidates -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- submitted signatures in Virginia.
On Saturday, Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins announced that only Romney and Paul had met the requirements.
I spoke with Mullins about the process Tuesday. He said that in certifying the candidates, he consulted with his general counsel and set up a process to faithfully follow the election law as it is written. Representatives from each of the four campaigns who had submitted signatures were present when volunteers reviewed their submissions. The media were welcome to witness the process.
But, Mullins said, "I was not happy at all in signing that certification with only two names on it."
He would like to see the Virginia law changed so that it strikes a balance between keeping frivolous candidates off the ballot and allowing all serious candidates access.
I would loosen it further: Let anybody on the primary ballot who meets the constitutional qualifications for president. Let voters decide whom they want their party to nominate.
Virginia's current system is designed to take power away from voters and give it to party bosses and establishment candidates who can raise massive amounts of money early in a campaign. It is wrong.
As a registered voter in VA...THIS will be the FIRST primary I refuse to vote in. EVER.
I’m pissed about this. Now that Cain is out (who I’d have voted for all the way to the top), I am for Newt who does have the most experience and is pro-Israel. I’m uninterested on both ballot choices we will have..and we cannot write in (total B.S.) So, first time ever I will not participate in primaries. It actually sucks.
Perfect. Shouldn't be more than several thousand natural-born over-35ers living in the US for at least 14 years who'd like to see their names on a ballot.
If Perry’s case wins, you may get your chance to vote for who you want. Let’s hope his case intervenes for Virginia voters like yourself.
5 months to gather 10,000 signatures.
Even Fred Thompson and Dennis Kucinich did this in 2008.
Get the feeling we have a lot of unserious candidates out there this time.
I hope so because locally here’s an article from a week ago where Newt is ahead in VA favorites:
Worse...the reason he’s not on is (and it’s enrages me) they say they cannot “validate” that the signatures are authentic or that they are valid, registered voters. Well hell...that doesn’t stop most felons from voting, or illegal aliens...or democrats going from precinct to precinct to vote multiple times...but does keep the #1 guy Virginians like OFF the ballot.
You’ve no idea how peaved I am about this!
“As a registered voter in VA...THIS will be the FIRST primary I refuse to vote in. EVER.”
That is exactly what the GOP establishment wants you to do and your sitting out only emboldens them to do more things like this.
Virginia conservative Republicans should do the following in this election cycle:
1) After the holidays get on the phone and raise royal hell with the RPV. If you have made pledges for donations, threaten to withdraw them and that you will not donate anymore.
2) If this situation is not resolved and we are forced to vote for these two utter nitwits I say hold your nose and vote for Roach Paul who I think is a complete loon. But if he wins it will utterly humiliate and put a scare in the RINOs in the establishment. (I am for Newt too.)
3) If you are not active get active in your local party organization and clean out the RINOs at the leadership level.
OOPs! I pasted the wrong thing FUnny! That is a photo I put on another story of our “dear leader” HA! Here’s the correct one....
Thanks for the advice. Hold my nose and vote for the crazy? Well, not a bad idea. I’ll make a few calls too.
In 2008, they took all candidates on 10,000 signatures and did not verify even one signature. And this is the very first time they have ever compared eligibility by verifying addresses.
They also did a last minute change in the rules, just weeks before the petitions were due. Nobody had the ability to react in time to the new and ridiculous requirements.
What if they are wrong, and you get Paul elected anyway? Are you sure that Gingrich won’t have thousands go to his aid in Iowa? There are 40% who are still undecided and have not weighed in on this yet.
You are flirting with disaster and are being manipulated.
In a former life, I collected signatures for a third party ballot position in a small rural state. I would have been pleased if we had only been required to get 400. I went door to door in one small town and collected 20 in one hour.
Another guy on the team bettered that just by going into bars.
If somebody was conservative, they were generally happy to sign just to be offered another choice.
If someone told me they were a Republican, I would just ask "You're a fair minded person and support giving these people their own choice, don't you?" About 90% of them would then sign.
If someone told me they were a Democrat, I would tell them that this option would likely take away Republican votes and help their candidate. This only worked about 40% of the time, as most of them were either too dense to make the connection or thought signing might disqualify them from certain government bennies.
Long story short is that Perry and Gingrich are both trying to do what Al Gore did in Florida in 2000-- change the rules after the fact. This is not a particularly endearing quality for someone who wants to be Commander in Chief.
They recommended everyone submit 15,000 on the chance that up to a third might be bogus.
That is not uncommon.
The only thing that is uncommon is that the 10,000 number is quite a bit higher than most states.
Still with either a volunteer base, organized through the internet, or some money and organization it’s really not that hard.
Truth is I live in Virginia and I would not have signed to put either one on the ticket.
How did that happen? I mean, is write-in forbidden, or is it just not provided for? Which politicos need to be taken out back and shot for that decision?
Theoretical possibility, and always raised in the parade of horribles by the two establishment parties, but it tends not to happen in real life. There are many, many states with much easier ballot access rules than VA, and the specter of overloaded candidate lists just never happens.
And I'm not sure why it is this way. Maybe filling out even a simple application and paying a modest fee is just too much trouble. Maybe the financial disclosure rules put off those people who are only moderately skillful in hiding their financial skeletons. Maybe there really aren't that many people so narcissistic as to believe they can actually be president. Maybe there are a lot of people whod rather just live their private lives in peace. Who knows.
So whatever the reason, the dreaded ballot overload problem is apparently a myth, and one perfectly suited to support the status quo. Which is how we got where we are now. Happy with that?
The fact is that Newt was in VA, a place he has lived in for the past 10 years, the day before the deadline frantically collecting signatures at two rallies. The campaigns were notified on March 6th about the rules and signatures could be collected beginning July 1st. Here in Fairfax County, the Romney and Paul campaigns were collecting signatures at our monthly GOP county meetings. The FCRC has over 600 members alone. We also had state elections in November with all of the members of the General Assembly up for reelection throughout the state. It would have been easy to collect signatures there as well.