U.S. District Court Judge John A. Gibney, Jr. for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on Wednesday, July 15, 2020 to ease the signature requirement for “third-party” presidential candidates, considering the difficulty of petitioning presented by the COVID-19 pandemic along with other constraints imposed by local and state governments.
Judge Gibney granted a 50 percent reduction in the signature requirement. Parties must now collect 2500, rather than 5000, signatures by August 21 to have their presidential candidate placed on the Nov. 3 ballot in Virginia.
Virginia’s Phase 3 guidelines for social distancing strongly encourage people to “maintain six feet of physical distance when outside of home.”
“While Libertarians are grateful for the reduction, we continue to feel it is unreasonable to insist on in-person signature requirements during a pandemic,” said Libertarian Party (LP) of Virginia Chair Nick Dunbar. “We will continue to work with the Virginia Board of Elections and the State Assembly to develop a contactless ballot-qualification method.”
Dunbar noted that the 50 percent reduction granted by Judge Gibney is less generous than was the 65 percent reduction granted to a Republican U.S. Senate candidate earlier this year.
Despite the difficulty, Dunbar expects Libertarians to meet the new requirement and place Dr. Jo Jorgensen, the Libertarian candidate for president, on the ballot.
“This is an important step toward ensuring that more than five million voters in Virginia can vote their conscience this fall,” said Dr. Jorgensen, who advocates a far smaller government; much lower taxes; competitive, low-cost health care; and an end to U.S. involvement in foreign wars.
On Monday, Dunbar presented testimony, along with representatives for the Constitution and Green Parties, regarding the obstacles to petitioning they faced this season and the resultant projections of signatures they expect to collect, based on past petitioning efforts.
Almost two dozen alternative-party voters, practicing social distancing and wearing masks, watched the testimony as Judge Gibney considered pro and con arguments. He cited First Amendment rights and other considerations to support lessening the requirement for this election cycle.