By Brad Tidwell
If you’re a voter in Virginia and want to vote in the Republican Presidential Primary, you may find out you only have two options to vote for the GOP nominee — Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. How did this happen? Why does it matter? And what, if anything, can be done?
Listening to most Virginia GOP officials, it would seem that the campaigns who weren’t qualified to be on the ballot, particularly the campaigns of Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, brought this on themselves. According to one county Republican official: “Nothing significant has changed in Virginia law on petitions in the past decade, except to make it easier to get signatures by reducing the requirement for Social Security number collection to a voluntary choice.”
However, this is simply not the case. This November, one month away from the deadline to turn in signatures, the Republican Party of Virginia changed their standard for how they verified signatures. According to Richard Winger, a leading expert on ballot access issues, previous Virginia Presidential primaries requiring 10,000 signatures did not go through a validation process like what Newt and Perry’s signatures went through. A legal case about ballot verification, which has not been decided at this point, convinced the Republican Party of Virginia to change its policy.
Winger flatly asserts, “If the Republican Party had not changed that policy, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry would be on the 2012 ballot.”
Ultimately, the Virginia GOP is responsible for changing the rules of the game in the middle of the signature collection process. And more importantly, they’ve disenfranchised supporters of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, while making a mockery of their nomination process. And because it is highly unlikely that Virginia will allow write-ins, voters will only have Romney and Paul to choose from in their primary election.
As a new resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I now find myself in the very awkward position of having to choose between two candidates I personally would never have supported in any primary otherwise. My first election will come down to two candidates, neither of whom I actually support. This is the kind of “democracy” one expects to see in a third world country, not in Virginia, the “cradle of Democracy” as some have called it.
I have never felt more like not voting, not even when I had to vote for McCain over Obama. All because of a technicality, a change made to the process in the middle of the game.
Conservatives believe, at our core, that competition is good. A more broad selection of options allows for the best to rise to the top, and the market benefits from that. Taking out competition by creating arbitrary rules in the middle of the game runs counter to that ideology. In this case, these rules only favor people who already have existing bases of support, and delegitimize the entire election.
Currently, Perry is pursuing legal options to challenge the Virginia GOP decision. I hope he succeeds, because if not, the “cradle of Democracy” is in danger of becoming very undemocratic.
Brad Tidwell is a contributor at NetRightDaily.com.