Makya Little addresses the State Board of Elections. Photo by Markus Schmidt.
Makya Little addresses the State Board of Elections. Photo by Markus Schmidt.

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The Virginia State Board of Elections took no action at its meeting Wednesday on a request by Jasmine Lipscomb, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Danville who had asked the board to put her name on the ballot for the November election as the Democratic nominee in the 49th House of Delegates District after her own party had denied her the nomination. 

Lipscomb informed Elections Administration Supervisor Paul Saunders in an email last week that she had handed over all the required paperwork with the exception of Form 511 — the certification of a non-primary candidate — which she said “should have been submitted” by the district’s Democratic nominating committee.

Jasmine Lipscomb. Courtesy of Lipscomb.
Jasmine Lipscomb. Courtesy of Lipscomb.

Lipscomb, who did not attend Wednesday’s board meeting, said in a phone interview that she is now weighing her legal options. 

“I am waiting to see what details will come out officially from the meeting. Based on that, I will make my decision on my next legal steps that I will take,” Lipscomb said. “I will continue with the fight, I will not give up.”

The newly created 49th District includes Danville and parts of Pittsylvania and Halifax counties. The incumbent is Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, who was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2001. 

In the spring, Lipscomb clashed with local party officials over voter signatures and filing fees, and in her email to the elections board she renewed allegations she made in a complaint that she filed earlier this month against the Democratic party’s leadership, accusing her district’s nominating committee of “discrimination based on economic status” and saying that the panel that had denied her the nomination “was improperly constituted” and that its decision “should be given no weight.”

The Democratic Nominating Committee in the 49th District had rejected Lipscomb’s bid in May because she had missed the deadline to submit a petition with 100 signatures from voters in the district and the $500 filing fee, which she did not have at the time. 

Because Lipscomb didn’t make it on the primary ballot, Marshall — the Republican incumbent — will run unopposed in the general election in a district that is 53% white and 45% minority, including 40.1% Black, according to data from the Virginia Public Access Project.

However, Lipscomb, a 37-year-old Black single mother of four, later submitted all required paperwork — including the filing fee — and argued that the party could still nominate her by acclamation even past the initial nomination deadline because she was the only candidate seeking the nomination. She also alleged that the committee had no standing in the first place because the panel’s rightful chair, Danville Democratic Chair Clem Oliver, had relinquished her duties as chair of the nominating committee to Patricia Harper-Tunley for health reasons. 

Lipscomb contended that Harper-Tunley, who chairs the neighboring Lunenburg County committee, should be prohibited from serving as the district’s nominating committee chair because she does not live within the district boundaries. She cited Section 7.4 of the party plan, which states that “the General Assembly District Committees shall consist of the chairs of the county or city committees in whose counties or cities the district lies.” 

Leadership of the Democratic Party of Virginia has not publicly commented on Lipscomb’s claims. A spokesman also declined to comment on Wednesday’s board meeting.

Lispscomb said in the phone interview Wednesday that she wasn’t surprised that the State Board of Elections did not take any action to aid her request. 

“But I want to make clear that they allowed Republicans Kilgore and LaRock to have extensions on their 511s that were not submitted by the deadline. So it’s interesting that the Democrats don’t get that same opportunity,” Lipscomb said, referring to the board’s decision to accept late nomination paperwork for Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, in 2019, and two years later for Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun County, who recently lost his bid to become the Republican nominee in the newly created 1st state Senate District.

But Lispcomb received public statements of support from other Democratic candidates. 

On Tuesday, Trudy Berry — the Democratic nominee in the 9th State Senate District — said that the actions of the Democratic nominating committee in the 49th District not only hurt the Democratic Party of Virginia, but also her own Senate campaign, because House District 49 lies within her Senate district. 

“House candidates on the ballot help Senate candidates on the ballot. With no Democratic challenger to the Republican incumbent in HD49, the GOP can spend more money against Democrats who are challenging Republicans in surrounding districts,” Berry said in an email Tuesday. 

“It is a travesty that this illegitimate nominating committee has disenfranchised the voters of HD49, and Democrats across the commonwealth are aware of it and feeling the pain.”

House District 49. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.
House District 49. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.

Lipscomb isn’t the only Black woman who has filed a complaint with the Democratic Party of Virginia this year. 

Makya Little, who was seeking the Democratic nomination in the 19th House District in Northern Virginia but was defeated by Rozia Henson in a three-way primary by just 49 votes, alleges in a complaint she filed Monday with DPVA Chair Susan Swecker that the Prince William County Democratic Committee had “pre-selected who their nominee would be” and “colluded with members of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and other organizations while violating party rules in a manner that manipulated voters to ensure their desired outcome.”

In a phone interview Wednesday, Little said that the most recent events — including Lipscomb’s unsuccessful attempts at getting her party’s nomination — led her to conclude that the Democratic Party of Virginia “has an issue” with Black women in leadership roles. 

“They want us for our labor, they want us for our support, they want us to help maintain power, yet when we choose to take on a leadership role — unless we’re willing to be controlled — they literally work against us,” Little said. “And then we wonder why we see the erosion of rights because people see things, and they choose not to say anything out of the sense of protection, because we want to keep that unity. And we are essentially forced to choose the lesser of two evils, regarding the two parties.”

A DPVA spokesman declined to comment on Little’s allegation. However, the party currently has several Black women in leadership roles, including Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who is the Senate’s president pro tempore; Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandra, the Democratic House caucus chair; and former state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, who was recently elected as the first Black woman from Virginia to serve in Congress, representing the 4th Congressional District. 

In her complaint, Little is asking Swecker to “consider nominating me” as the Democratic candidate in the 19th District, which includes parts of Prince William and Fairfax counties. 

But unlike Lipscomb, who said that she would not run a write-in campaign or ask to be put on the ballot as an independent, Little on Wednesday asked the State Board of Elections for ballot access as an independent in a district where no Republican candidate has filed to run. 

“Because the Democrats essentially did not run a fair process, I have a case to state that I never had a chance to qualify on the ballot as a Democrat, therefore extending the deadline would allow me to qualify as an independent,” Little said in the interview. 

But the board took no action on Little’s request Wednesday. Saunders, the elections administration supervisor, said in a brief interview after the meeting that the board’s consideration was for deadline extensions for two specific documents: the certificate of candidate qualification and the statement of economic interest. “They don’t have statutory authority to take a stand for any other reason,” Saunders said. 

Little said that she is now considering taking her case to court in order to get ballot access as an independent candidate. 

The board also did not grant a filing extension to Dan Tomlinson of Louisa County, the only remaining Democrat seeking his party’s nomination in the newly created 10th Senate District in central Virginia after Jacob Boykin withdrew his bid.

Because Tomlinson missed the deadline, the Republican nominee John McGuire, who currently represents Goochland County in the House of Delegates, is currently unopposed in the November election.

Senate District 10. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.
Senate District 10. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at or 804-822-1594.