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Settlement reduces signature requirement for state Democratic primary amid pandemic
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Settlement reduces signature requirement for state Democratic primary amid pandemic

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Paul Goldman held a press conference in front of City Hall in Richmond, VA Thursday, July 18, 2019 to talk about his new ballot initiative. 

A Richmond judge has approved an agreement between two statewide candidates and state elections officials to reduce the ballot signature requirements for the June Democratic statewide primary amid COVID-19.

The Democrats’ candidates will only have to secure the signatures of 2,000 qualified voters, including 50 in each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Petition signers will be able to submit signatures to campaigns by mail or electronically.

Richmond Circuit Judge David Eugene Cheek Sr. approved the agreement. By Feb. 5, state elections officials will develop a new form that will let qualified voters sign their names without being in the presence of someone circulating a petition. Candidates will have until March 25 to submit petition signatures to the Department of Elections.

Paul Goldman, one of eight Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, and Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, one of the party’s five candidates for governor, sued state elections officials last month, asserting that amid the pandemic the state should reduce the signature requirement and allow for electronic signatures.

Ordinarily, in order to qualify for the ballot in a state-run primary, a candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general must obtain 10,000 signatures from qualified voters, including at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts.

Goldman said in a statement Monday: “The terms are reasonable and sensible and more importantly vital amidst this terrible, tragic pandemic which the President and Dr. Fauci say ... is likely going to get worse in the coming weeks.”

Carter said on Twitter: “We started from the premise that political campaigns should not be required to expose people to COVID-19, and the Department of Elections and the court both agreed. This is a big win that will absolutely save lives.”

Two Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination for attorney general in the June primary.

Republicans plan to pick their statewide nominees in a convention.

The suit asked the court to change the signature rules for this year only.

“This is not the normal situation,” Goldman said in a phone interview in December. “It’s the worst possible situation.”

acain@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6645

Twitter: @AndrewCainRTD

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