Two Central Virginia Republican candidates will appear on the November ballots after a Richmond judge’s decision upheld extensions granted by the Virginia Board of Elections.
Virginia’s Board of Elections was sued in July by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after the Board voted on July 7 to allow eight congressional candidates, including 5th District Republican candidate Bob Good and 7th District Republican candidate Nick Freitas, to qualify for the November ballot despite not filing paperwork on time.
The DCCC asked that Good and Freitas not be allowed to appear on the November ballot, a decision which would substantially benefit Democrats in the 5th and 7th district races.
However, during a Aug. 17 telephonic hearing, a Richmond City Circuit Court judge found that the agency acted within its power and granted the defendants’ demurrer, effectively dismissing the case. The complaint was formally dismissed with prejudice via an order issued on Aug. 26.
According to a transcript of the hearing, counsel representing the DCCC argued that though the state Board of Elections has the ability to grant an extension for a 10-day period, the Board waited nearly a full month before granting the extension 39 days after the original statutory deadline.
“The first thing that we do is look at the surrounding language in that provision, and I think when we look at that provision as a whole, what we see is that the Board absolutely has unfettered discretion to decide whether to grant an extension, period,” attorney Sarah Gonski said on behalf of the DCCC. “But we also see that it does not have unfettered discretion to decide how long the extension should be for.”
Blaire O’Brien, an attorney representing the state Board of Elections argued that the 10-day extension ran from the date of mailing, which happened to be July 7 because that was the first time the Board had a regularly scheduled meeting after the new filing deadline.
“There is no reason for the court to disturb the Board’s exercise of its discretion in this case, and this is exactly what the General Assembly designed the statute for the Board to be able to do, is to have the discretion to act under circumstances like this,” she said.
Judge Joi J. Taylor sided with the defendants’ argument, granting the demurrer.
“In this case I cannot see where there has been any allegation that the Board exercised its authority in an unreasonable manner, in other words that they took too long or they didn’t have opportunities to be heard,” Taylor said. “And so that being the case, that they exercised their authority in a reasonable manner, and they had that authority to do so, I didn’t see where, to Ms. Gonski’s point, that they waited forever, or how long it wanted to.”
Melvin Adams, chairman of the 5th District Republican committee, said he had been set to testify at the Aug. 17 hearing but ended up not needing to after the judge’s decision. Adams said he was pleased with the judge’s decision, which he viewed as a victory for Republicans.
“The case was without merit and it didn’t take the judge long to recognize that,” he said. “This effort to push [Good] off of the ballot was a bad faith move to disenfranchise voters that ultimately did not work.”
In a statement issued the same day as the hearing, Good echoed a similar sentiment.
“The Department of Elections has a tremendous job ahead of them with printing and processing millions of ballots, and I am grateful for the work they do to ensure that voters can cast their vote on or before November 3rd for the candidate of their choice,” he said.
The DCCC did not respond to several requests for comment and did not answer whether it plans to appeal the dismissal.