Late in 2011, when all but two Republican presidential candidates failed to get on the primary election ballot, I made some suggestions on Bearing Drift for reforms to Virginia’s ballot-access laws:
The most obvious reform would be to reduce the signature requirement. One possibility is to change the statewide threshold to 5,000 signatures, with 200 signatures from each of 6 of the 11 congressional districts.
Now the General Assembly has done almost precisely that. Richard Winger reports on Ballot Access News:
On February 19, the Virginia House passed SB 690, which cuts the number of signatures for all presidential petitions (both presidential primary, and general election petitions) from 10,000 signatures to 5,000 signatures. The bill had already passed the Senate, so now it goes to the Governor. The vote was unanimous.
This achievement — along with two other, related bills — was thought significant enough by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that he put out a news release this morning, saying in part:
In 2012, after local and state-level litigation over existing ballot access restrictions, Cuccinelli brought together a working group of bipartisan stakeholders and legislators with the aim of improving ballot access for candidates and those wishing to seek candidacy in statewide and local elections. The attorney general also wanted to expand participation to so-called “inactive voters.” The bipartisan working group included former attorney general Tony Troy and former members of the State Board of Elections, among others. With the attorney general’s personal participation, this group crafted legislation to provide solutions to ballot access issues that have arisen in recent years.
“I am pleased with the passage of, and robust support for, these three ballot access bills. In the attorney general’s office, we work diligently to preserve the integrity of the election process. Ensuring uniformity and fairness in access to the ballot by candidates is a vital part of that process. We have also expanded who may participate in getting candidates on the ballot, which hopefully will encourage more participation in our political process.”
The specific bill that cuts the signature requirement was HB 1346, patroned by House Privileges & Elections Committee chairman Mark Cole and copatroned by Delegate Jennifer McLellan, demonstrating the measure’s bipartisan support. The final version of the bill was based upon the Senate’s substitute amendment but the substance is largely the same — or perhaps even better than the language originally introduced by Cole.
The bill now goes to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature.
While this modest reform benefits candidates of all political parties, I know my friends in the Libertarian Party of Virginia are in a specially celebratory mood today.