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Virginia and the right to choose in a primary election

January 15, 2012

Apparently none of the major Presidential candidates satisfied the requirement to be placed on the ballot of the Virginia primary except for Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. According to this article, the Virginia rules are extremely strict, requiring 10,000 signatures and at least 400 from each congressional district.

Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich both sued to get the requirements changed – citing, in particular, that the provision that residents of Virginia must be used to collect the signatures. Federal District Court judge John A Gibney Jr. denied the requests, saying that while he thought the provision requiring use of state residents to gather signatures was unconstitutional, none of the candidates had collected 10,000 votes, regardless.

There’s a certain amount of glee on the left about this, of course. When I researched this piece, I found a lot more on the Daily Kos and the Huffington Post and places like that than serious news sources. Fox News and The Washington Post gave very little information in their articles. Perhaps there was more in the original denial articles. Sorry, I haven’t done research that deep – and I’m feeling guilty about it, OK?

My thoughts, though, are mixed: while I hate to see major candidates denied placement on the ballot, so the people have a choice among all of them, they didn’t satisfy the rules – and that resonates in my “states’ rights” core beliefs a lot. While it’s a Federal election, the primaries there are to choose delegates to the political conventions. Political parties weren’t really considered by the Founders, or if they were, they tried to avoid those potential problems in writing the Constitution. The selection of delegates for things back then (like the Constitutional Convention) was done pretty much on the local level. Granted population was far smaller at the time, but the principles in the Constitution have held up for a country of over 300 million citizens pretty well.

I think states should have the right to establish the rules regarding the primaries and selection of delegates for a political party. The problem with suits like this is that the matter gets pushed to the Federal Court. There are Federal election laws, sure, and the Constitution is supposed to trump state law in interstate matters, but this is an internal state matter. Look at the Iowa caucuses, one of the most bizarre electoral processes ever concocted – it’s a perfect example of allowing a state to work the way it wishes to.

I’m not a big Romney fan, and I don’t consider Paul anything but a spoiler. But if the other campaigns couldn’t muster the number of votes required under the rules, they don’t get to play. If we play the “fairness card” we will take away a right from the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that’s been done too many times already.

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