(Correction!) Newt Gingrich: No-show voter to Virginia primaries

CORRECTION: As a result of misreading the voter history report generated by VERIS, Newt Gingrich’s general-election voting history was misstated below. He did, in fact, vote in every general election from 2003 to 2010, voting absentee in three of them. The information about primary elections is correct.

In the aftermath of the news that presidential candidates Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich had failed to qualify for Virginia’s 2012 Republican primary because neither campaign had collected a sufficient number of voters’ petition signatures, the blogosphere has been filled with a “set phasers to mock” attitude, especially toward Gingrich.

Gingrich became a special target of snark both because he distastefully compared his campaign’s inability to meet Virginia’s ballot-access requirements to the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in December 1941, and also because he vowed to wage an “aggressive write-in campaign” in the March 6 primary.

It only took a few moments after that announcement for experts on Virginia politics to note that it is impossible to do that, since write-in votes are not permitted on primary ballots in the Old Dominion.

As Larry Sabato of the UVA Center for Politics tweeted early on the morning of Christmas Eve,

I’m well familiar w/VA primary ballots, D & R. There is NO write-in possible on primary ballots. So Newt’s write-in? All in his head.

Gingrich, who is registered to vote in the Dranesville district of Fairfax County, did not know what virtually every political activist knows – and what most voters who participate in primary elections should remember simply by observation: that Virginia does not allow write-in votes in primaries.

I may have discovered a clue to Newt’s cluelessness, however.

Since 2003, Gingrich would have had four opportunities to participate in a Republican primary election: June 2003 (Virginia state senate and Fairfax County sheriff); June 2005 (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General); February 2008 (presidential); and June 2008 (U.S. House of Representatives).

Out of those four elections, according to Virginia voter registration records, Gingrich voted only once. He cast an absentee ballot in the February 2008 Republican presidential primary.

Since the records on VERIS (the statewide voter registration database) do not extend beyond 2003, it’s not possible to determine if Gingrich voted in primary elections before that.

We do know, however, that he did not cast a ballot in 2005 to choose between Jerry Kilgore and George Fitch for Governor, or between Bill Bolling and Sean Connaughton for Lieutenant Governor, or between Bob McDonnell and Steve Baril for Attorney General.

We know he did not cast a ballot in 2008 to choose between incumbent Representative Frank Wolf and challenger Vern McKinley.

That means Gingrich only had one opportunity in the past nine years to observe that write-in votes are not allowed in Virginia elections.

That explains a lot.

It may also indicate the level of Gingrich’s commitment to participate in the political process. He has voted in one primary election and just three of the past eight general elections. He failed to vote in the November elections of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2010. He did vote in November 2006, 2008, and 2009.

Has anyone ever used the word “aloof” to describe Newt Gingrich?