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Virginia GOP files lawsuit to remove Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe from the November ballot

Business Insider logo Business Insider 8/28/2021 (John L. Dorman)
Terry McAuliffe posing for the camera: Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik © AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • The Virginia GOP filed a lawsuit to remove Democrat Terry McAuliffe from the November ballot for governor.
  • McAuliffe, who previously served as governor, was nominated as the party's nominee once again.
  • Republicans argue that a missing signature on McAuliffe's candidacy form invalidates his campaign.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Republican Party of Virginia on Thursday filed a lawsuit to remove Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe from the November ballot, alleging that his election paperwork failed to meet the official guidelines due to a missing signature, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The state GOP filed the lawsuit in the Richmond Circuit Court, arguing that McAuliffe failed to sign his "declaration of candidacy" form, which is a part of the process in qualifying for the primary and general election ballot in the Commonwealth. The lawsuit also alleges that two McAuliffe staffers who attested to witnessing McAuliffe sign the form made false statements.

The form was submitted in early March and McAuliffe, who previously served as governor from 2014 to 2018, easily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in June.

An attorney for the Virginia GOP argues in a 20-page brief that the omission in the paperwork and constitutional rights violations "infect [McAuliffe's] Declaration with illegality and therefore make it invalid."

"McAuliffe's declaration, lacking his signature and falsely signed by two purported witnesses, is plainly in violation of Virginia law and should have been rejected by the [board of elections] and the Department of Elections. It was not," reads the lawsuit. "The omission of McAuliffe's signature from his Declaration, compounded by false witness attestations, is fatal to his candidacy under Virginia law."

The lawsuit says that McAuliffe's June primary victory should be invalidated and that his name should be removed from the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

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Virginia Republican Party Chairman Rich Anderson said in a statement that McAuliffe's "clear violation of the law severely jeopardizes the integrity of our elections in Virginia."

McAuliffe's campaign slammed the lawsuit as a "desperate" ploy to help the GOP gubernatorial nominee, Glenn Youngkin, a former private equity executive and first-time political candidate.

"Our campaign submitted the required paperwork," spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said. "This is nothing more than a desperate Trumpian move by the Virginia GOP to deprive voters of a choice in this election because Terry is consistently leading in the polls."

The Virginia Department of Elections has not commented on the matter.

McAuliffe on Friday filed a motion to dismiss the Republican lawsuit in the Richmond Circuit Court, arguing that the "complaint is based on a legal lie" and contending that the GOP "seeks to improperly use this Court to deprive Virginia's voters of their right to select their next Governor."

The section of Virginia law that the Republican Party has cited in their lawsuit states that a political candidate's "declaration shall be acknowledged before some officer who has the authority to take acknowledgments to deeds, or attested by two witnesses who are qualified voters of the election district."

However, the law that is cited doesn't specifically call for a signature - and the candidate form mandates that the declaration either be "acknowledged before a notary" or "witnessed before two persons" who are qualified voters.

The most recent polling numbers have showed small leads for McAuliffe, but a Christopher Newport University poll released this week had him ahead by a larger 9-point margin (50%-41%) among likely voters.

The current governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, is term-limited and ineligible to run for reelection.

Over the past 20 years, Virginia has shifted from a conservative stronghold to a Democratic-leaning Southern state - Republicans have not won a statewide race in the Commonwealth since 2009.

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