Gingrich Campaign Plans Pointless, Illegal Write-In Campaign In Virginia

The Gingrich campaign’s response to being excluded from the Virginia ballot is, well, rather interesting:

A write-in campaign is what Gingrich is planning.

“We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice,” Gingrich Campaign Director Michael Krull said in a statement.

There’s just one problem. Write-in votes are not permitted in primary elections in Virginia:

At all elections except primary elections it shall be lawful for any voter to vote for any person other than the listed candidates for the office by writing or hand printing the person’s name on the official ballot

That’s the first sentence of Virginia Code Section 24.2-644(C). Considering that Newt is a resident of the Commonwealth one would think his campaign would be aware of such things. Actually, one would think his campaign would have been on top of this thing months ago.

Update: Also relevant to this issue is Va. Code Section 24.2-529:

The primary ballots for the several parties taking part in a primary shall be composed, arranged, printed, delivered, and provided in the same manner as the general election ballots except that at the top of each official primary ballot shall be printed in plain black type the name of the political party and the words “Primary Election.” The names of the candidates for various offices shall appear on the ballot in an order determined by the priority of the time of filing for the office. In the event two or more candidates file simultaneously, the order of filing shall then be determined by lot by the electoral board or the State Board as in the case of a tie vote for the office. No write-in shall be permitted on ballots in primary elections.

Sorry Newt, you’re out of luck.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jeremy says:

    While the whole thing shows how poorly Gingrich has run his campaign, that’s a really dumb law.

  2. bluepenguin says:

    Any history on why the threshold was made so challenging? Did a specific event make Virginia take this approach?

  3. Boyd says:

    “Illegal” is a silly term to use, Doug. Is it a misdemeanor or a felony? What’s the potential punishment for this “illegal” act?

    No one expects you to be objective, but you’re letting your contempt for Gingrich color your commentary to the point where you’re presenting falsehood as fact. There’s a term for that, y’know.

  4. A little hyperbole in a blog post title is surely a first 😀

    As for Gingrich, between his failure to do what ever Dennis Kucinich and Alan Keyes could do and the dumb statement his campaign issued this morning contempt is what he deserves.

  5. Boyd says:

    Okay, if that’s how you want to present yourself, it’s you’re call. But remember, it rubs off on James to some degree, and I’m not sure he wants to look like a buffoon.


  6. Encouraging voters to deface ballots in a primary election is potentially a misdemeanor under Virginia law, by the way.

  7. Boyd says:

    Now you’re getting even sillier. Which isn’t to say there aren’t several Commonwealth Attorneys in Virginia who might give it a try, but that doesn’t make it not asinine.

  8. Here’s a question. Before your campaign issues a press release, don’t you think someone would bother to check and see if the plan the press release announces is even permitted under Virginia law?

  9. Boyd says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending Gingrich’s campaign. But “not permitted under Virginia law” is a far cry from “illegal.”

  10. jd says:

    “At all elections except primary elections it shall be lawful…” pretty much means to me that it is UN-lawful in the primary election.

  11. Boyd says:

    Not to be rude or insulting, jd, but what it means to you has no usefulness under Virginia law.

  12. Boyd says:

    And now I go back to ignoring the echo chamber. Cya!

  13. Ken says:

    @Boyd: I have voted in every election for the past 43 years. I guess I’ll be skipping my the VA primary because I can’t write in Newt Gingrich for president. Too bad the Republican (and Democrat) establishments won’t let us have 100 percent of right to vote, i.e. a write-in. I just can’t bring myself to vote for either of the two whackos listed on the ballot.

  14. @Ken: Yes, damn that establishment and a law that has been the law since at least 1971. And Romney is a “whacko”? Seriously, WTF?

    @Boyd: “illegality, n. 1. An act that is not authorized by law. 2. The state of not being legally authorized. 3. That state or condition of being unlawful.” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 3d pocket ed., p. 337)

  15. superdestroyer says:

    Who cares? Gingrich will not be around by the time of the Virginia primary. My guess is that Romney will be the perceived winner by then and everyone else (except Paul) will be out of money and will have given up campaigning.

    Welcome to the one party state, where the Democratic Primary is the real election and the next relevant election for President will be in Iowa in 2016. The 2012 election is already over for the President.

  16. JohnMcC says:

    Damn shame for Newt that no activist judge can be found to rule that this statute violates the VA constitution or something. Wonder if AG Cuccinelli would have any opinion or option that would be of help? Not that Mr Gingrich is an ‘insider’ or anything!

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Sorry Boyd, you lose. If it is against the law, is it not illegal? If not, pray tell, please explain it to me?

  18. MM says:

    @Boyd: For someone who practices pedantry, calling this site an echo chamber is an…interesting contribution.

  19. MM says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Does it really matter? Does a discussion over whether illegal means “not legal” or “punishable by law” actually matter?

  20. Trumwill says:

    Bad on Gingrich for not getting his act together, but seriously, a guy who can’t get on the ballot encouraging people to write his name on the ballot is a perfectly reasonable response, whether the vote counts or not. If this were Gary Johnson or Jon Huntsman, would we even be having this conversation? I would be coming to Johnson’s and Huntsman’s defense, so I am rather obligated to come to Gingrich’s. Outside of the competence issue, this is a rather dumb avenue of attack no matter how we parse the meaning of “illegal.”

  21. Trumwill says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Does this not strike you as the least bit problematic? That declining to vote for one of the official candidates instead of writing in the name of your preferred candidate should be considered criminal? Or does it not matter because it involves Newt Gingrich?