Let the whining over Virginia’s ballot access rules begin!

There’s a bit of national fallout from the news that only four of the seven GOP presidential campaigns managed to file the required number of petition signatures to appear on the March 6th primary ballot.

As is to be expected, some of the campaigns are whining that Virginia’s ballot access rules are just too darned hard:

On a conference call with grassroots supporters last week, a top Santorum staffer had discussed ballot-access issues in several states. Virginia was singled out as a tough one, because of the “stringent” factor described in the Politico article: Not just the 10,000-signature minimum, but you have to get 400 signatures in each of 11 congressional districts, and the deadline hit in the middle of the holiday season, at the same time that the campaigns were going all-out in Iowa.

The Santorum people on the conference call were asking for Virginia volunteers to help with their ballot-access drive, saying they were hoping for a “Christmas miracle.” Given the low-budget situation with the Santorum campaign, they had no other choice but rely on volunteers. (Romney, of course, could afford to hire professional ballot-access people.)

RPV sources I spoke with yesterday regarding where the various campaigns stood with petition gathering indicated that some — like Bachamnn and Santorum — hadn’t been heard from or seen in months. The State Board of Elections issued a bulletin on March 6th informing all would-be presidential candidates that they could begin gathering signatures on July 1st.

The SBE’s notice even came with a suggestion on how many signatures to gather:

Because many people who are not registered to vote will sign a petition, it is recommended that 15,000 – 20,000 signatures be obtained with at least 700 signatures from each congressional district.

That some campaigns chose either to wait till the last minute to begin the process, failed to get started at all, or neglected the SBE’s advice on signatures reflects poorly on the campaigns, not on the state’s ballot access requirements.

So enough with the whining. If a campaign can’t put the boots on the ground to clear the petition goal — or even read the damned forms issued months in advance by the State Board of Elections — then we have to seriously question the campaign’s viability.

If anything, Virginia’s petition process has done a national service, exposing the weak and trivial campaigns and advancing the rest.

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