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Richmond Judge Lowers Ballot Signature Requirement For Mayoral Candidates Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

from of richmond courthouse
Candidates running for mayor in Richmond will only have to gather 150 signatures to get on the ballot, instead of the usual 500. (Photo: Taber Bain via Flickr)

Candidates running for mayor in Richmond will only have to gather 150 signatures to get on the ballot, instead of the usual 500.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge Joi Taylor  approved an agreement on Monday between state and local elections officials and mayoral candidate Tracey Mclean. Mclean filed a lawsuit earlier this month, arguing that gathering signatures under the current social distancing restrictions is impractical and threatens public health. The Virginia Attorney General’s office did not dispute the claims. 

“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,” Mclean’s complaint read.

On the courthouse steps following Monday’s ruling, Mclean said she’s now more confident she can qualify for the ballot while keeping herself and her campaign volunteers safe.

“I think we are all now able to run the race equally,” she said. “The playing field is equal now.”

An attorney for Richmond General Registrar J. Kirk Showalter declined to comment.

Under the consent decree worked out by lawyers for Mclean and Richmond General Registrar Kirk Showalter, the signature requirement was lowered from 500 to 150 and the filing deadline was extended from June 9 to June 28. 

The consent decree does not apply to other candidates for local office in Richmond, something mayoral candidate Justin Griffin pointed out following the ruling.

“Hopefully, they’ll address it for the school board and city council candidates, because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Candidates for Richmond City Council and School Board will still need to turn in all of their signatures by June 9th.

Griffin  told VPM last month that he had only about half of the required signatures when the pandemic hit. He has since gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

So far, only two candidates - City Councilwoman Kim Gray and Mayor Levar Stoney - have had their qualifying signatures for the November ballot certified by the Richmond General Registrar.

 

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