Paperwork Is for the Little People


by Donald Smith

This is a story of two political candidates, from two different parties, and the standard that should –but almost assuredly won’t — be applied to both.

The candidates are Terry McAuliffe, Democrat, running for governor of Virginia in 2021, and Nick Freitas, Republican, running for the House of Delegates in 2019.

The standard is that candidates in Virginia elections have to satisfy state requirements for filling out key paperwork.

In 2019, Nick Freitas didn’t. From the Washington Post, July 26th 2019.

State election officials said his local Republican legislative committee never submitted a required form indicating Freitas was the party’s nominee. The state said another form, which Freitas personally should have filed, was also missing.

Freitas was forced to run as a write-in candidate. (He won).

Apparently, in 2021, Terry McAuliffe has his own paperwork problems. From the AP:

The Republican Party of Virginia filed a lawsuit Thursday asking the courts to remove Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe from the ballot for failing to sign an official form declaring his candidacy…

The formal “declaration of candidacy” McAuliffe submitted to the state’s board of elections to enter the Democratic primary in March is indeed missing his signature — the box he was supposed to sign was left blank, along with lines asking for his phone numbers —- though two witnesses’ signatures were included on the form. The suit also argues the witnesses…violated state law because they could not have witnessed a signing that didn’t happen.

I’ve read several articles about the McAuliffe paperwork foul-up. None of the political or legal experts quoted in them think McAuliffe will be bounced from the ballot. But some do point out the Freitas paperwork episode, and the price he had to pay.

Ed Morrissey, at the HotAir blog, had this to say: “One has to wonder why Freitas would have been forced into a write-in option while McAuliffe might get a pass, especially since the lack of a signature essentially means the same thing in a legal sense — the proper paperwork never got filed.”

Morrissey agrees with the election experts; he thinks McAuliffe will stay on the ballot. But it reminds him of another episode like this, in New Jersey in 2002. (Emphasis added)

This is what’s known as the Torricelli Principle, which is no principle at all. Robert Torricelli bailed out of his 2002 Senate re-election campaign in New Jersey six weeks before the general election due to scandal and his standing in the polls, which suggested that Republicans might capture the seat. The deadline had long passed for replacing Torricelli on the ballot, but a court allowed Democrats to replace Torricelli with Frank Lautenberg, arguing that the law was clear but the outcome was unfair to the voters. Lautenberg ended up winning the seat.

This is what happens when courts become outcome-based rather than statute-based.

Think about that. Morrissey and all the election experts presume McAuliffe will prevail, even if it’s clear that he didn’t comply with state requirements. They expect that Virginia officials will find some way to justify overlooking not only the lack of McAuliffe’s signature, but the fact that two people witnessed a signature that isn’t there!

Have we reached the point in Virginia, where we’re all supposed to just accept that some people or groups will be treated differently under the law? Should average Virginians — and especially Republicans — now presume that the standards applied to them will differ from the standards applied to the progressive elite?

If I were Terry McAuliffe, I would.

We all saw how the Washington Post, a onetime pillar of American journalism, debased itself over the Ralph Northam blackface incident. The Post called for Northam to resign. But, when it became clear that the next likely governor would be Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox — a Republican — the Post’s tone changed. The “outcome” the Post wanted was a progressive Virginia state government. And, voila, the Post changed course. Apparently they didn’t care how two-faced and partisan that made them look. It seems that the outcome, not the principles of journalism (or their reputation), was what really mattered to them.

The Post covered the controversy on Thursday. The Post article closes with a quote from political analyst Bob Holsworth that might as well have come from the McAuliffe campaign: “I don’t see how it benefits Republicans politically to” challenge McAuliffe’s place on the ballot. “You should win the election fair and square with the electorate.” The article’s headline literally dripped bias: “Virginia GOP Tries Legal Tactic to Force Democrat McAuliffe Off The Ballot For Governor.” No mention of Nick Freitas’ experience.

If standards are to be fair and just, they need to apply equally to everyone. We should coin a phrase for this kind of double-standard: the “Virginia Way.” Something akin to, and just as shameful as, the “Chicago Way.” And people wonder why trust in our institutions is eroding…

…and maybe that’s the answer to Holsworth’s question, about how this benefits the Republicans politically. The Republicans might be hinting to Virginians that, not only does Terry McAuliffe get lenient treatment — he expects to get it! He seems to feel entitled to a special, more lenient standard.

Holsworth’s comments, as characterized by the Post, hint at this. The Post prefaced his “win the election fair and square” killshot quote with this statement: “Longtime Virginia political analyst Robert Holsworth said that legalities aside, he was surprised that the Republicans would attempt such a tactic.”

Ummm… legalities aside? LEGALITIES ASIDE??? Do Holsworth, the Washington Post, and the progressive-dominated Virginia MSM think some Virginians are entitled to put annoying “legalities” aside? (Must be nice to be special enough to put the law aside)

A missing signature is a minor thing. Establishing a principle of double standards in the application of the laws is a major, and very bad, thing.

Lots of Virginians are frustrated, for many reasons. One thing guaranteed to frustrate you is watching some people getting to ignore rules that others have to follow. And frustrated people vote.

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19 responses to “Paperwork Is for the Little People”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    Wow.. this is what is meant when the GOP says they’re gonna “bring it”!

    lord. lord.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      As Caucus director 30 years ago it would have been my ass if we lost a candidate from filing too late. Calling down the list to be sure was a major effort. I walked many a form by hand down to 9th Street. Filing day was always a bit of a zoo. In those days the state staff was always helpful and more than once let me know about the laggards.

      Gawd, another one of those “back in my day” comments. Nobody gives a damn….

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        I care, Haner…😉

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          me too!

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Beats a “Get off my lawn”.

        Sheesh, “back in my day,” just means you still remember, and more importantly, you did.

        The 3 levels of fame, Steve.
        “Get me Steve Haner!”
        “Get me a Steve Haner!”
        “Get Steve who?”

  2. If the legal principle of de minimis non curat lex (the law does not concern itself with trifles) is deemed applicable, it should be applied in an even-handed, nonpartisan manner to all people in similar situations, regardless of their political status or party affiliation.

    Unfortunately, an even-handed, nonpartisan application of the principle can still be problematic when there are strong differences of opinion about what constitutes a “trifle” that warrants application of the principle.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Yeah, big difference between “on time” and “no signature required”, but yes, trifles, to be sure.

  3. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    If memory serves, wasn’t the problem with Freitas that he missed the deadline entirely? Not that he didn’t sign some page (something which apparently was not actually an affirmation anyway?) Bit of a difference, at least. I was happy this year they overlooked a paperwork error (an omission) to let Mark Earley Jr stay on the ballot for the House and cannot then be throwing rocks over this. But Earley did file on time. He now has a good comeback if/when anybody brings it up again. 🙂

    This follows RPV’s breathless discovery that Larry Sabato is (who knew?) an actual liberal Democrat. It is about the same level of relevance. The tasks of managing or enhancing the voter lists, raising money, running a phone bank, doing oppo research or organizing the poll watching corps are not enough to keep them busy?

    Jim and I are aware of somebody else looking at a situation where petition signatures were on a form that failed to identify the candidate. So the people could have thought it was a form for somebody else. And of course we had the case a while back of actual forgeries on petitions. That was a huge issue and properly triggered prosecutions. This rises to neither level.

    1. Donald Smith Avatar
      Donald Smith

      “This rises to neither level.”

      You are welcome to make that case to the electorate.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Of course, Bill Bolling tells me that the signature isn’t required.

    If Youngkin had run a campaign, he wouldn’t need to nitpick on nonissues. Nor, would he be back by 9 pts.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      It is not 9 points. And it is not too late to get back to telling Virginians some very valid reasons they might not want to continue this conversion of Virginia into Woke Heaven. Not one voter will decide against McAuliffe on the basis of this paperwork error, however.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        You’re right. But they will decide against Youngkin on the basis of what he said. Bell’s been rung. Tough to tell those independent voters that you were lying about lying to them. That “Truth Ad” will run even after election day.

      2. Donald Smith Avatar
        Donald Smith

        Which is why I wrote: “A missing signature is a minor thing. Establishing a principle of double standards in the application of the laws is a major, and very bad, thing.”

        It’s not the signature; it’s the principle. That’s the case Youngkin needs to make. The signature issue is a symptom of the bigger problem: a clique of progressives that feel they can skirt the laws, and a Virginia media that is so outcome-based that it will let them skirt the laws where it can.

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Too many examples of GOP candidates getting a similar pass after paperwork errors (but they couldn’t ignore Freitas’ total failure to file.) Make the case with the Parole Board, Mayor Stoney’s statue contract with his donor, McAuliffe getting slapped down by the Supreme Court when he tried to let all felons just start voting…plenty of solid examples.

          1. Donald Smith Avatar
            Donald Smith

            “Too many examples of GOP candidates getting a similar pass after paperwork errors (but they couldn’t ignore Freitas’ total failure to file.) ”

            In your opinion. And, if you confine the issue to just Virginia elections paperwork procedures.

            The issue is double standards in general.

            Maybe average Virginians won’t comprehend all the ins-and-outs of elections paperwork. But they will comprehend the fact that two of McAuliffe’s cronies witnessed a signature that clearly wasn’t there, and know that’s fishy. They’ll also know that, if they did the same thing, the Virginia authorities wouldn’t just laugh it off. I know that would rankle me, just before a big election.

            The problem is the whole mindset that that group of people over there gets a pass, but the rest of us have to follow the rules. Now, Team Youngkin has to figure out a way to weaponize that argument, and that IS on them. How about a billboard slogan like “Enough with the double standards. Vote Youngkin.”

            I hope Team Youngkin reads this article, and your suggestions, and runs with all of them.

          2. Merchantseamen Avatar

            Not “fishy”. Its fraud. Let the average Joe try it.

  5. Donald Smith Avatar
    Donald Smith

    “The general officer U.S. military ranks have a big problem: The field grade officer and noncommissioned officer ranks have had enough of the double standards applied to leadership.”

    Double standards, in general, are a big thing nowadays. And, local elections can be influenced by national issues, and nation-wide anger.

    Didn’t the Democrats take over the Virginia General Assembly because many Virginians were so mad at Donald Trump—even though Trump lost Virginia and wasn’t running for statewide office?

    Youngkin should be looking for ways to fuel voter anger. Here’s one. He can argue that McAuliffe’s paperwork escapade is best viewed as a symptom of a larger disease—elites expecting to skate by. If the Virginia GOP is itself too tainted by double standards to make this argument effectively, then Youngkin (and other new GOP candidates) can brand themselves as outsiders who will bring change to Richmond.

    1. Donald Smith Avatar
      Donald Smith

      Let the McAuliffe campaign explain to the voters why their paperwork problem should be ignored, while Freitas’ paperwork problem justified him having to be a write-in candidate. Let the McAuliffe campaign convince voters that McAuliffe actually signed the form in invisible ink—and his staffers can read invisible ink, so they dutifully witnessed a signature that only people with superpowers can see.

      There’s an old saying in politics—if you’re explaining yourself, you’re not in a good spot. McAuliffe apparently feels he won’t have to explain himself or suffer consequences. Let him justify that.

      Team Youngkin should use this affair to ask aloud, and often, why McAuliffe should get a pass that Freitas didn’t. Why didn’t the Post story mention Freitas’ experience? Why did it take a national-level blogger, who’s not a Virginian, to raise the Frietas-McAuliffe comparison? Let Team McAuliffe answer those questions, to the satisfaction of Virginia voters.

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