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Richmond Mayoral Candidate Files Suit, Says Signature Requirement 'Impracticable' During Pandemic

photo of tracey mclean
Small business owner Trace Mclean began her run for mayor shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit. (Photo: Mclean For Mayor)

A Richmond mayoral candidate is suing state and city officials over the requirement that candidates submit voter signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The lawsuit was filed last Friday by a lawyer for Tracey Mclean, a small business owner running for mayor. In the complaint, McClean argues that gathering signatures in-person is “impracticable” during the coronavirus pandemic. McClean is required to submit 500 signatures to Richmond’s General Registrar by June 9, one day before Governor Ralph Northam’s ‘stay-at-home’ order is set to expire.

“At best, continuing to obtain signatures is challenging, and at worst is in direct conflict with directives from everyone in the public health community, which only risks making a very serious situation worse and specifically exposes campaign staff to additional dangers,” the complaint reads.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Mclean said she has already collected 273 voter signatures. She is asking the court to cut the signature requirement in half, to 250, and to extend the filing deadline from June 9 to August 11.

Mclean said she feels the current requirements put up a barrier to holding elected officials accountable.

“It’s about my constitutional rights,” she told VPM in an interview. “The most important thing is that this can be a fair race and everybody has an opportunity to run.”

Mclean is not the only candidate who has encountered this obstacle. Multiple people running for local offices in Richmond told VPM last month that, without changes to signature requirements,  it may be all but impossible to qualify for the ballot.

Similar cases in  Massachusetts and  Michigan have resulted in a win for candidates who asked for deadline extensions or for state officials to accept electronic signatures.

When  VPM asked Northam’s office if they planned to offer alternative measures for qualifying for the ballot, Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner said the state does not have the technological capability to allow for e-signatures, but is exploring other options.

“Some candidates have sought relief from the courts to lower the number of petitions they need to submit, and that is always an option for candidates to pursue,” Conner added.

Mclean says she was listening in to the  Governor’s April 24 press conference where Conner spoke. She said Connor’s response was what motivated her to file the petition.

“I am very good at following directions,” Mclean said.

A court hearing has not yet been set for Mclean’s complaint. 

 

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