Saturday, December 24, 2011

In defense of Virginia's ballot petitions

The Richmond Times Dispatch has an article up on its website about Newt Gingrich complaining about Virginia's system of requiring the collection and submission of signatures on ballot petitions in order for a candidate's name to appear on the ballot for a primary in Virginia.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign is attacking the system in Virginia that will keep him off the state's Republican presidential primary ballot.

The state GOP says Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry failed to submit the required 10,000 signatures to appear on the March 6 Super Tuesday ballot. It's a setback for Gingrich, who has surged in popularity but struggled to organize his campaign.

The Gingrich campaign says Virginia has a "failed system."
In truth, nothing could have demonstrated Gingrich's unfitness for the presidency more than this relatively mild organizational hurdle. Gingrich is a sloppy, undisciplined candidate who doesn't bother to read or follow the rules. Well Mr. Speaker, the rules apply to everyone, including you.

It's a rare day indeed when I can wholeheartedly endorse anything from the right side of Virginia's blogosphere, but today is such a day. In plain language Norm Leahy makes clear the useful purpose served by the Virginia process:
A hardened cynic might say this result exposes those campaigns for what they are: glorified book tours. And in Newt Gingrich’s case, that’s probably more true than people realize. In his appearance earlier this week in Short Pump, Gingrich took pains to mention his forthcoming book on George Washington’s experience at Yorktown.

Is that too cynical? Not really. The State Board of Elections first notified the presidential campaigns on March 6th of the ballot access requirements. The campaigns have had since July 1st to collect the signatures they needed. They even had the great good fortune of having a statewide election in Virginia this November plus the annual gathering of Republican activists in early December to gather signatures.
Leahy is absolutely, 100% correct in his assessment regarding the value of ballot petitions. They very effectively weed out the serious from the unserious--the people who are more concerned with book sales or auditioning for a job at Fox News.

I have participated in organizing one petition drive, that of Jim Webb in 2006. With much less time, and with only one paid staff person, the Webb campaign successfully collected significantly more than the necessary minimum of signatures. While some campaigns resort to paying collectors something in the neighborhood of a $1 per signature, the Webb campaign did not pay for a single signature, so it can't even be said that money is a barrier to entry in the Virginia system. All a candidate needs is a committed group of campaign workers, either paid or volunteer, who are willing and able to carry out a basic organizational task.

A candidate that lacks the ability to read the rules, follow the rules, muster the supporters, and carry out this simple task--which is somewhat less complicated than staging say, a large state-wide bake sale--is probably not qualified to be the leader of the free world. And certainly that applies most especially to Newt Gingrich.


Rick Taylor said...

I was astonished that only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul would be on the ballot in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination in Virginia. Do you know who was on the ballot last time, for the 2008 election? I would have thought any serious candidate would at least make sure they were on the ballot in all the states.

The Richmonder said...

Six Republicans qualified for the ballot in 2008:

Fred D. Thompson
John McCain
Mike Huckabee
Mitt Romney
Ron Paul
Rudy Giuliani

Newt Gingrich and his campaign staff just aren't up to snuff.