Trudy Berry, the Democratic nominee in the 9th state Senate district in Southside, said that she has been denied ballot qualification because the Department of Elections has not received a document that officially certifies her status as her party’s nominee after her local nominating committee accidentally sent it to the wrong email address.
“I called the department and verified that they received all of my forms, but not the 527,” Berry said, referring to the Party Certification of Primary Candidates form. “I also verified with my registrar that she received my Statement of Organization. All of the paperwork I was required to submit was received and in order,” she said.
Berry added that she received an email from Patricia Harper-Tunley, the chair of the Lunenburg County Democrats, on April 3 stating that her signatures had been certified and the certification notice would be submitted as required. “This was before the April 6 deadline to file for the Primary Election. From April 3 to July 13 everyone thought everything was in order and my name would be on the ballot,” she said.
When Harper-Tunley looked for the receipt of submission of the 527 form, she noticed that the email address was incomplete, Berry said. “This is why the Department of Elections had not received the 527. My Chair is working with Jack Foley and Shyam Raman at DPVA.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Elections declined to comment Friday. But in past election years, the State Board of Elections has placed the names of two Republican candidates on the ballot despite their paperwork arriving late or incomplete.
In June 2021, Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun County, asked the board for reprieve after a local Republican Party official submitted his paperwork as an uncontested primary candidate two days late. The board agreed to take up the case and later granted LaRock’s request to place him on the ballot despite the missed deadline.
And in 2019, the board accepted late party nomination paperwork for Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, so he would be listed on the ballot as the Republican candidate that year. Kilgore was the winner of a local party convention, which should have allowed him to make the ballot as the official GOP nominee. But a snag in the delivery process resulted in a missed filing deadline.
Berry, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg County, in the general election, said that she is now in a “wait and see mode” to see if the “error will be excused and they will allow my name to be placed on the ballot.”
For Democrats, who are seeking to keep their 22-18 edge in the Senate while hoping to flip the Republican majority in the House of Delegates, every seat is crucial.
And Berry isn’t the only Democrat whose ballot qualification is in question due to missing documents.
The State Board of Elections recently denied a request for 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.
Greg Maxwell, the Democratic nominee in the 39th House of Delegates district in Franklin County and part of Roanoke County, has also asked the Department of Elections for an extension after his paperwork got lost in the mail. His case is still pending, and Maxwell declined to comment Friday.
In the 49th District, which includes Danville and parts of Pittsylvania and Halifax counties, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jasmine Lipscomb is still fighting to get on the ballot after local party officials denied her the Democratic nomination because of a dispute over voter signatures and filing fees.
More Democrats in other parts of the state are facing similar challenges.
In House District 74, which includes parts of Chesterfield County and the city of Colonial Heights, Jessica Rowlands filed her paperwork without a statement of economic interest. And in House District 98, which encompasses parts of Virginia Beach, Zach Coltrain – at 20, the youngest candidate to run in the 2023 elections – submitted all of his required documents, but the local nominating committee did not send it in.
“During these last two weeks, between the candidate filing deadlines and the Department of Elections’ official certification of party nominees, Virginia Republicans have successfully placed more than several candidates in House and Senate contests, while in the same time period Virginia Democrats have been bleeding candidates in more than several House and the Senate contests,” said Dr. Fergie Reid, Jr., the founder of the 90 For 90 voting rights initiative and the son of Dr. Fergie Reid, Sr., who in 1967 was the first Black politician to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly since the days of Reconstruction.
“All of this is an unforced error on the part of the DPVA and the Democratic House and Senate Caucuses. It’s frustrating,” Reid said.