Update: Friday, August 27 at 8:15 p.m.
Terry McAuliffe is filing his own motion with a request for dismissal of the Republican lawsuit aimed at removing him from the general election ballot.
“We haven’t even made it to Election Day and Virginia Republicans are already trying to undermine the election results in court using Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s playbook,” said McAuliffe spokesperson, Christina Freundlich in a statement Friday night. “Terry McAuliffe overwhelmingly won the Democratic primary with the support of hundreds of thousands of Virginians – more than any other primary candidate in Virginia history – and this Trumpian attempt to distort the law and the will of the voters will not prevent him from becoming the Commonwealth’s next governor.”
Original Story: Thursday, August 26 at 10 p.m.
The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) announced Thursday that they are suing the State Board of Elections (SBE) in an attempt to get the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe removed from the ballot for not signing a declaration of candidacy form in March. It is unclear, however, if a judge would be able to find the grounds to rule in favor of RPV and remove his name from the general election ballot this November.
“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our democracy, and Terry McAuliffe’s clear violation of the law severely jeopardizes the integrity of our elections in Virginia,” said Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Rich Anderson. “For decades, Terry has used his political connections and proximity to power to avoid consequences for his reckless behavior and disregard for people and laws, but no amount of political favors and back-slapping can refute the fact that McAuliffe is a fraudulent candidate and cannot be Virginia’s next governor.”
The lawsuit from RPV states that leaving McAuliffe on the ballot would cause irreparable harm to Virginians. ”The RPV seeks to protect its rights, and the fundamental rights of its members and the voters who associate with it, from the serious and irreparable harm that would occur if Defendants—the Commonwealth’s chief election authorities—do not immediately act to address a serious misrepresentation and deficiency in the candidate qualification process for the upcoming election for Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the 20-page complaint reads.
McAuliffe’s campaign has only provided one statement since RPV announced the lawsuit. “Our campaign submitted the required paperwork,” tweeted McAuliffe spokeswoman Christina Freundlich. “This is nothing more than a desperate Trumpian move by the Virginia GOP to deprive voters of a choice in this election because Terry is consistently leading in the polls.”
The State Board of Elections has not commented.
Experts don’t believe that the lawsuit has much ground to stand on, however. Michael Gilbert, a vice-dean of the University of Virginia School of Law, told the Washington Post that his “guess would be this lawsuit doesn’t go anywhere.”
He also noted that the state code does not specifically say that a signature is required on this form. “The declaration shall include the name of the political party of which the candidate is a member, a designation of the office for which he is a candidate, and a statement that, if defeated in the primary, his name is not to be printed on the ballots for that office in the succeeding general election. The declaration shall be acknowledged before some officer who has the authority to take acknowledgments to deeds, or attested by two witnesses who are qualified voters of the election district,” the code reads.
“So maybe it isn’t even a technical violation,” Gilbert told the Washington Post. “It’s hard to imagine a court saying yes, we’re going to unwind the last six months of campaigning in the commonwealth over such a small issue.”
Marc Elias, an election law attorney that represents Democrats didn’t hold back when sharing his opinion of the lawsuit. “I’ve seen a lot of dumb lawsuits by the GOP. This is a really dumb lawsuit,” he tweeted Thursday.
A similar lawsuit filed by Roy Perry Bey and Carlos Howard is already being heard in a Richmond Circuit Court. Judge Bradley Cavedo declined to place an injunction on the printing of ballots at the request of the plaintiffs, – though he has not yet made a final ruling in the lawsuit.
Perry Bey and Howard filed their lawsuit for the same missing signature and a theory that they believe McAuliffe should be ineligible to run for a second term as governor. The Virginia Constitution does not allow for consecutive gubernatorial terms but does not restrict non-consecutive terms. Mills Godwin served two non-consecutive terms as the 60th and 62nd governor of Virginia.
The campaign for the Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin said in a statement that they will be “closely monitoring the situation to ensure all legal requirements are followed,” according to Macaulay Porter, a Youngkin spokeswoman. “These are very serious questions, and the McAuliffe campaign seems to be claiming that Terry McAuliffe doesn’t have to follow the law like everyone else who runs for office in Virginia.”
Early voting begins in Virginia begins on Sept. 17.
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