Morrissey seeks to stop printing of primary ballot

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/9/2015, 11:38 a.m.
Joseph D. “Joe” Morrissey is not giving up on his bid to challenge Petersburg state Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance in ...
Mr. Morrissey

Joseph D. “Joe” Morrissey is not giving up on his bid to challenge Petersburg state Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance in the June 9 Democratic primary in the 16th Senate District.

This week, he asked a Richmond court to block the state Board of Elections from printing primary ballots and to grant him an opportunity to prove the state Democratic Party wrongly disqualified him.

As of Free Press deadline Wednesday, the Richmond Circuit Court had yet to set a hearing on his emergency request for an injunction.

Mr. Morrissey’s representatives indicated he might turn to federal court if the judges in the city court fail to act.

The deadline to make any changes on the ballot is Tuesday, April 14, according to the city’s voter registrar, J. Kirk Showalter.

The former legislator gave up his Henrico House of Delegates seat and moved into the city to take on Sen. Dance and outgoing Petersburg Delegate Joseph E. Preston, the only candidates to qualify for the primary contest.

The 16th Senate District stretches from Richmond’s East End to Petersburg and Hopewell.

Mr. Morrissey was one of two candidates knocked off the ballot for failing to submit the required 250 signatures of qualified voters, according to the state Democratic Party and the candidate nominating committee for the Senate district. The other candidate, Derik E. Jones, son of Mayor Dwight C. Jones, has not challenged his disqualification.

According to the party, only 222 of the more than 1,000 signatures Mr. Morrissey submitted were qualified. The rest of the signatures were rejected for various reasons based on a review by Ms. Showalter.

According to the suit filed Monday by attorney Sherry Netherland on behalf of Mr. Morrissey and several people who signed his petitions, the action of the party and the state board to disqualify Mr. Morrissey violates federal voting and civil rights laws that protect “the rights of the candidate to appear on a ballot and the rights of citizens to participate in political speech.”

The suit states that the state party “refused to give Mr. Morrissey or those signing his petitions the right to appeal” and show that the party had thrown out signatures of at least 28 qualified voters that should have been counted.

The state board also denied Mr. Morrissey and his supporters the same appeal rights that the state board would provide to non-party candidates who allegedly failed to provide enough signatures, the suit states.

As a result, the suit alleges the state board has abdicated its oversight responsibilities to ensure the proper and legal admin- istration of the state’s election laws.

Political parties have received a grant of authority from the General Assembly to determine candidates in primary contests, and the SBE previously has stated it is not authorized to review party decisions.

So far, neither the state Democratic Party nor the SBE has filed a response to the suit.