Thursday, January 5, 2012

Republicans in Virginia Trying to Limit Ballot Access for Advantage to Certain Candidates

What Is It About Democracy They Just Don’t Like?

In the center ring of the three rink circus that is the Republican nominating process is the fiasco that a number of candidates created for themselves in an attempt to get on the primary ballot in Virginia.  The requirement for ballot access was neither unknown nor particularly burdensome.  Candidates had to get 10,00 petition signatures, with at least 400 from each Congressional District.

Several candidates, Newt Gingrich among them failed to do this.  This was simply lazy and sloppy campaign work, and Mr. Gingrich and others had no to fault but themselves.  Of course, they didn’t see it that way; Mr. Gingrich being of the entitlement class believes that even if he failed in his attempt to do what was required, he was still entitled to ballot access because, well, because he was Newt Gingrich.

Now Virginia’s Attorney General is seeking to obtain a change in the rules, and allow ballot access to any candidate who qualified for federal matching funds, which would give Mr. Gingrich a place on the ballot.  As much as The Dismal Political Economist enjoys the spectacle of seeing Mr. Gingrich whine about an event that was the result of his own incompetence, this sounds like a fair thing to do.  And apparently it is possible to do this if the state legislature will cooperate.

But that is where things get interesting.  See the Virginia Attorney General is an ultra radical conservative, who obviously wants someone other than Mitt Romney, who is on the ballot, to at least challenge Mr. Romney.  But the Governor is Robert F. McDonnell, who is looking like a likely candidate for the VP slot if when Mr. Romney gets the nomination, and blocking ballot access would certainly be doing a favor for both Mr. Romney and for Mr. McDonnell’s VP chances.  So the Governor is non-commital.

Bob McDonnell, the state’s Republican governor, issued a statement saying he would review any legislation passed, but stopped short of endorsing it.

Virginia’s laws regarding ballot access are well known and have been in place for many years. All candidates seeking to be listed on the Virginia primary ballot in a statewide race have known the requirements well in advance,” said Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Mr. McDonnell.

Mr. Martin said the governor “is always open to reviewing how Virginia’s primary system can be improved to provide voters with more choices. If the General Assembly decides to take action to change Virginia’s ballot access requirements for the March 2012 primary, the governor would review those changes.”

In the end it is likely that if the legislature approves such a measure the Governor will sign it.  This is because by the time it becomes necessary for the Governor to do so Mr. Romney may be assured the nomination, and Mr. McDonnell can tell Mr. Romney that had it been important he would have been more than willing to sacrifice democracy for his own political gain, but since the issue was becoming moot, well, he would take the high road.

So in the end Virginia Republicans will likely get to choose from many candidates, but only because it won’t matter.

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