Virginia Independent Candidate, Told She Didn't Have Enough Valid Signatures, Wins Federal Lawsuit

On August 16, independent candidate Tichi Eppes was placed on the November ballot, after Virginia election officials agreed to sign a consent order in federal court, acknowledging that she did have enough valid signatures to be on the ballot.

Eppes is an independent candidate for Richmond, Virginia School Board. She needed 125 valid signatures and submitted 181 signatures. Election officials checked her petition and said only 122 signatures were valid. She identified ten signatures that had been invalidated improperly, but the officials refused to change their mind. On July 25, she and some of the signers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Eppes v Showalter, eastern district, 3:12-cv-545. After she filed the lawsuit, election officials acknowledged that she did have enough.

The ten signatures that had been disqualified include two instances when two individuals with the same name live at the same address. The signatures of these two were invalidated on the basis that the Board of Elections didn’t know which of the two individuals at that address had signed. But, of course, that is immaterial; the Board has no need to know which of the two individuals at that same address signed.

The Board had invalidated the signature of a female voter who had signed using her new surname, which had changed because she had recently married. The Board had invalidated one signature on the grounds that the signer had signed the petition twice, but a review showed that she had not signed twice. The Board had invalidated one signature on the basis that the voter was not registered when she signed, but she did register to vote before the petition was submitted, so her name should have been counted. The Board had invalidated one signature on the basis that the handwriting was illegible, but neutral observers were able to read her entry. The Board had invalidated one signature on the basis that the voter was on the inactive voters list. The Board had invalidated two signatures on the basis that the voters had shown their new address on the petition but they are still registered at their old address. Because the Board of Elections conceded that the petition does have enough valid signatures, no judicial determination was made about any particular signature. Here is the complaint in the case and here is the consent order.

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