We know that the vast majority of 72,000 votes Keith Judd received in the West Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary Election one week ago were not really in support for the Texas convict; they were votes against President Obama.
As such, the votes do have meaning because they are a legitimate expression of voter frustration in this state with the policies of the current President.
The Democratic presidential ballot included only the names of Obama and Judd. If there had been a long list of other unknown Democrats, the anti-Obama vote would have been divided among them fairly equally.
Still, it’s embarrassing that a felon, serving a 17-year jail sentence for extortion in connection with threats made at the University of New Mexico, finds his way on to the ballot in West Virginia in the first place.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant argues she had no choice but to make room for Judd because he met basic requirements and paid the $2,500 filing fee. “The U.S. Constitution does not deny felons from being on the ballot,” Tennant said at a news conference last Friday.
Judd is not the first felon to appear on West Virginia’s ballot. Lyndon LaRouche ran in the Democratic presidential primary four times in West Virginia, including 1992 when he was in prison for mail fraud and tax violations.
But nobody paid much attention to LaRouche in ’92 because he was one of nine Democratic candidates and received just 3,141 votes. His quixotic White House bid got lumped in with the rest of the fringe candidates.
Judd is different because of his 41 percent showing, and his case raises legitimate questions about whether West Virginia should make it harder for candidates to access the ballot.
Many states obligate presidential candidates to submit a particular number of signatures, but what’s the right number?
Louisiana requires just 1,000 signatures from members of the candidate’s party, but a candidate can bypass the petition drive by paying a $1,125 filing fee.
Virginia requires 10,000 signatures, with at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Perry was able to reach that threshold this year.
Idaho, Washington and Kansas have gone in a different direction. They simply eliminated their presidential primaries for this cycle. Instead, delegates to the national conventions are selected at party caucuses, so there’s no issue of ballot access for presidential candidates.
If West Virginia wants to continue having presidential primaries, but keep the Keith Judds of the world off the ballot, the legislature will have to find a balance. The additional requirements should not be so restrictive that they make it too hard for legitimate candidates to qualify.
West Virginia Republican Attorney General candidate Patrick Morrisey has suggested an interesting option; the presidential candidate should have to show up in person at the Secretary of State’s office to file.
That requirement would keep Keith Judd off the ballot… at least until after he makes parole.