Candidates Sue Virginia to Run as Republicans

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – Candidates for county office sued Virginia on Monday, claiming it unconstitutionally prohibits them from running as Republicans.
     The Powhatan County Republican Committee and four candidates for the board of supervisors claim Virginia’s ballot laws violate their right of association.
     Powhatan County is just west of the state capital, Richmond.
     Candidates for federal or state office must include their party affiliations on ballots, but candidates in county elections are prohibited from it, lead plaintiff Robert Marcellus says in the federal complaint.
     Virginia “treats state legislative candidates who have been nominated by a political party one way, but prohibits the same treatment for local party nominees,” Marcellus told Courthouse News. “There is no good reason for this difference in treatment.”
     Virginia’s official voting site, “What is on my Ballot?” does disclose information about local candidates’ political parties. But Marcellus claims that depriving candidates and voters of that information at the polls amounts to concealment.
     The defendant Virginia State Board of Elections did not responded to a request for comment.
     But in an Aug. 3 email to the Powhatan County Director of Elections, a policy analyst for the Board of Elections cited two “theories” about the varying rules.
     “There is some Hatch Act justification,” the analyst wrote. “The Hatch Act puts certain restrictions on state and local officials whose salary is paid by federal money. The second is that there is some budget concern.”
     He wrote that there have been several attempts to amend state law to allow political affiliations on county ballots, but all were defeated. “(T)he stated rationale for defeating them was primarily budgetary,” the analyst wrote. He said he thinks both of these “two justifications sound dubious as legitimate rationales for not having party designations on the local ballot, but alas …”
     Marcellus said the ballots have not yet been printed, and that candidates have until Sept. 18 to make other changes, such as adding their middle initial.
     “The Commonwealth of Virginia has a ballot transparency problem that doesn’t make sense and needs to be fixed before the ballots are printed,” Marcellus said.
     “This violates the rights and interests of those candidates, the party that nominated them, and the voters, who deserve to have that information when they step into the booth to vote,” Marcellus said. “The voter has a right to know.”
     Marcellus et al. are represented by Patrick McSweeney, with McSweeney, Cynkar & Kachouroff, of Powhatan.
     They want the state ordered to put their party affiliations on the ballot.
     Marcellus said he hopes to have a hearing next week.

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