The Virginia Capitol under construction in March 2023. (Sarah Vogelsong / Virginia Mercury)
Loosening a previously strict policy meant to encourage Virginia political candidates to file their legally required paperwork on time, the State Board of Elections on Tuesday approved a 10-day extension for any would-be candidate who failed to meet the April 6 filing deadline to run in state or local primary elections.
In 2021, the last General Assembly election year, a board made up of mostly different members refused to extend the filing deadline after being repeatedly asked to make exceptions for candidates and party officials who didn’t get legally required paperwork in on time. That decision meant several candidates challenging incumbents failed to qualify for the ballot.
On Tuesday, Elections Commissioner Susan Beals, an appointee of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, pointed to the unusually big retirement wave in the General Assembly and the ensuing spike in first-time candidates as the rationale for granting an extension. She also said election officials have been having “some issues receiving candidate filings through the mail.”
“Given this, I would like to respectfully request that the board consider amending today’s agenda to approve an extension for all candidates to file,” Beals said.
Board Chairman John O’Bannon, a former Republican delegate, noted that the decision to grant an extension was a shift from the board’s stance two years ago.
“For years it was an automatic 10 days and then under our former chairman we chose to get a little stricter for that,” O’Bannon said, referring to former Democratic board member Bob Brink, whose term ended this year. “But I have to say that this year is an extraordinary year. There is redistricting. And there are many, many new candidates.”
The board’s unanimous vote gives state and local candidates 10 more calendar days to file two key documents: a certificate of candidate qualification and a statement of economic interest. The former requires candidates to list their address and swear they’re eligible to hold the office they seek. The latter is a financial disclosure form in which candidates detail sources of income, investments and real estate holdings.
The board received a formal request for an extension this week from Richard Walker, a Democratic candidate running for the 79th House of Delegates district in the Richmond area against two other Democrats. According to state officials, at least eight other hopefuls also needed an extension to qualify for the June primary ballot. That group included both Republicans and Democrats.
O’Bannon indicated other candidates had made inquiries about missed deadlines, without naming specific campaigns.
“The other folks were informal but all concerned about their paperwork,” he said. “Which is why we chose to take the action we’ve taken.”
O’Bannon is the only one of the current board’s five members who was also serving in 2021 when the board refused to grant a similar extension. Beals was appointed to head the Virginia Department of Elections in 2022, which meant many of the prior paperwork issues were handled by her predecessor, former Elections Commissioner Chris Piper.
Virginia law allows, but does not require, the Board of Elections to grant 10-day filing extensions and notify all candidates with missing paperwork that they still have time to file. The 10-day countdown begins when those notices are sent out, which would likely put the new deadline late next week.
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