Virginia Attorney General Backs Down On Plan To Change Ballot Access Rules

Just 24 hours after word came out that he was proposing a largely impractical legislative solution to the fact that five Republican Presidential candidates were unable to comply with Virginia’s Ballot Access Law, Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has backed down. This evening, I received the following press release from Brian Gottstein, Director of Communication for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office [emphasis added]:

RICHMOND, VA (January 1, 2012) – Statement from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on changing Virginia’s ballot access law for the March primary:

“I obviously feel very strongly that Virginia needs to change its ballot access requirements for our statewide elections. However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democratic leaders to attempt to make changes in time for the 2012 Presidential election, my concern grows that we cannot find a way to make such changes fair to the Romney and Paul campaigns that qualified even with Virginia’s burdensome system. A further critical factor that I must consider is that changing the rules midstream is inconsistent with respecting and preserving the rule of law – something I am particularly sensitive to as Virginia’s attorney general.

“My intentions have never focused on which candidates would be benefited or harmed, rather I have focused on what is best for Virginia’s citizens, as hundreds of thousands of Virginians who should have been able to make their choices among the full field of presidential primary contenders have had their number of choices reduced significantly.

“My primary responsibility is to the people of Virginia, and how best to fulfill that responsibility in these particular circumstances has been a very difficult question for me. I believe consistency on the part of public officials is an important attribute. And I believe that Virginians are best served by an attorney general who consistently supports the rule of law. That leads to my conclusion that while I will vigorously support efforts to reduce the hurdles to ballot access in Virginia for all candidates, I will not support efforts to apply such changes to the 2012 Presidential election.

“I do not change position on issues of public policy often or lightly. But when convinced that my position is wrong, I think it necessary to concede as much and adjust accordingly.”

The translation of all of this is that Cuccinelli spent hours on the phone with Republicans and Democrats and learned very quickly that there was no way his proposed legislation would make it through the Virginia legislature in time to have an effect on the March 6th ballot. Of course, I told everyone that was the case yesterday.

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. mommadona says:

    Watch the man on the unicycle juggling those flaming swords while balancing on the head of that pin.

    He made an utter political animal fool of himself and is NOW doing the Moon Walk as fast as he can.

    Virginia, you deserve SO much better. My dear, you MUST get a grip on yourself.

  2. What a joke.

  3. Bluepen9uin says:

    One could argue that citizens of Virginia did speak by not providing enough signatures for certain candidates. If there was more broad support for the candidates they would have been able to achieve the requirements.

  4. Lovettsville Lady says:

    As if he didn’t know that yesterday! Of course he knew it. It was a political stunt, one that I do not appreciate.

  5. Lovettsville Lady says:

    He didn’t spend hours on the phone with people today, he’d already done that. Ken does his homework. He knew the law, and he knew that it couldn’t be changed quickly enough. Everyone knew it, but we assumed that he had done his homework and that he had legislators ready to get his changes done. He didn’t! He was just jerking us around to show that he’s the anti-Romney guy. It was a stunt to rally his supporters. It didn’t work. Voters don’t like being manipulated like this.

  6. Lovettsville Lady says:
  7. Ken Cuccinelli, with his actions over the past couple months, has disqualified himself from holding any future political office (or even continuing to serve as Attorney General for that matter).

    What politician proposes a controversial piece legislation such as this, supposedly knowing full well the difficulty in getting it passed, without making sure he has the votes to pass it?

  8. Lovettsville Lady says:

    Exactly Tim! It’s very irresponsible.

  9. Robert in SF says:

    I am surprised he didn’t say, “However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democrat leaders…”. I don’t know much about the guy, just the term I hear from too many of the Republican party reps…

  10. @Robert in SF: To pass the legislation before the primary they needed 4/5ths of both bodies of the General Assembly, which would require 12 Democrats in each chamber, and that’s assuming that every Republican would vote for the proposal.

  11. Robert in SF says:

    @Timothy Watson: I was, it seems, too subtle in my comment’s markup…I focused on the editing but not the evidence of the edits….

    Here is, I hope, a better way to make my comment:

    “However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democratic leaders…”. I don’t know much about the guy, just the term I hear from too many of the Republican party reps…

    Too many Republicans use that term “Democrat” as the descriptor for all things Democratic (Party, leaders, policies, etc.). It comes off as petty, cheap, small minded…

    But then, here I am projecting onto a guy I don’t really know, so I am not much better am I?

    Anyway….I just look for it in Republican public statements, and when I don’t see it, I am surprised.