The Bulletin

Virginia elections board votes to allow 3 Republicans on ballot despite late filings by party officials

By: - June 30, 2021 2:38 pm

The floor, emblazoned with the state seal, of the Virginia Capitol in Richmond, CCO via Wikimedia Commons.

Incumbent GOP Del. Dave LaRock and two other Republicans will appear on the ballot this year after the State Board of Elections voted 2-1 Wednesday to certify their candidacies despite local party officials missing a filing deadline this month to formally nominate them for office.

The decision comes a few months after several Democratic candidates planning to run primary challenges against incumbent House Democrats were denied a place on the ballot by the same board for different late paperwork issues. At Wednesday’s meeting, the board rejected several requests for filing extensions from other would-be state and local candidates.

Election officials defended their approach by pointing out there are key differences in how it handles specific forms. The main distinction, they said, is between paperwork campaigns are responsible for and paperwork that has to be filed by local party officials.

In the case of LaRock and the two other Republicans whose candidates were accepted, officials said, the missing documents were supposed to come from the party.

“Candidates don’t have any control over what happens in those situations and whether or not the party chair files those documents,” said Dave Nichols, election services manager for the Virginia Department of Elections.

In addition to LaRock, one of the most conservative members in the House, the board signed off on the candidacies of Matthew Lang, who’s running against Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax, and Gina Ciarcia, who’s challenging Del. Candi King, D-Prince William.

Members of the elections board pointed to a provision in state law laying out the rules for how local party chairs certify their candidates. That law specifies that if the local party official fails to certify a duly nominated candidate, the elections board should still treat that candidate as an official nominee.

“The code gives us clear authority for the decisions that we made,” said Republican board member John O’Bannon, who made the motion to certify the three candidates. “That is not the case for the other ones we did not act on.”

Elections board Chairman Bob Brink, a Democrat, voted with O’Bannon to allow LaRock, Lang and Ciarcia on the ballot. Democratic board member Jamilah D. LeCruise voted against it, and didn’t explain her rationale beyond saying: “It’s a no for me.”

Board members made no motions on the other filing extension requests. One of the requests came from a would-be independent candidate running for a House seat in Southwest Virginia who said the COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from getting petition signatures on in time.

“The State Board of Elections does not have the authority to extend the deadline for petition submissions,” Nichols told the board.

An extension request was also denied for Kellie Artrip, who wanted to run for commissioner of revenue in Radford.

“I took a risk to try and make my comer of the world the best place it can be,” Airtrip wrote in a letter to the board saying her paperwork issues arose from a miscommunication with her local registrar’s office.

Radford Registrar Tracy Howard defended his office in an email to the board, saying the situation was “a matter of a candidate simply not following through.”

“I learned back in the 90’s not to chase down candidate paper work, because it lends to appearance of favoritism,” Howard wrote. “My office does NOT play that game.”

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Graham Moomaw
Graham Moomaw

A veteran Virginia politics reporter, Graham grew up in Hillsville and Lynchburg, graduating from James Madison University and earning a master's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Before joining the Mercury in 2019, he spent six years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, most of that time covering the governor's office, the General Assembly and state politics. He also covered city hall and politics at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville.