UPDATED BELOW at 3:30 PM
This past Friday I spoke with Farid Alan Schintzius, a candidate for mayor whose petition to get on the ballot was rejected when the registrar's office disqualified a handful of signatures from the 8th district. "Well, those signatures must have been invalid!" you say. Not so fast, says Schintzius. “These voters were disqualified simply because they moved. They are on the lower end of the income scale. They are renters and some move frequently.” The people whose signatures were disqualified were “shocked and disturbed that they were denied their right to support a candidate despite the fact that they have been registered to vote and have voted in those districts for decades.”
Schintzius explains, “They [the registrar's office] regularly and systematically disqualify valid registered voters from being part of the petition process because their residence address, which is what is asked for on the petition, does not match the voter registration records as the address that they are registered at. If they were going to their polling place to vote, they would be able to vote. There is no reason why they cannot create a process that validates those registered voters despite the fact that they have a new address. “ He states that this is the basis for his lawsuit. Last week, his case was shifted to Federal Court. That hearing, set for this morning at 9:00 a.m., for an injunction, “a restraining order if you will,” is to prevent the State Board of Elections from printing the ballots and election materials until the lawsuit to restore him to the ballot has been heard. Shintzius is concerned about getting on the ballot and representing the people of Richmond, but his highest priority is changing the way the system works and making sure that all registered voters are able to participate on a fair and equitable basis.
“The system is set up to defend the ballot against candidates who won't do the work in the manner the registrar decides is appropriate to determine if the signatures are valid or not.” If the signatures get disqualified, they give the candidates too narrow of a window to fix it, and the evidence they require the candidates to provide to investigate, “they have right there at the registrar's office! They just don't want to do the work to look it up!”
If he and his co-plaintiffs (some of the owners of the disqualified signatures) win their lawsuit, the State Board of Elections will be required to make some changes. A suggestion is to update their petition procedures to include clarifications as simple as a box to check whether you reside at the address where you are registered to vote, and if not, enter your registration address. "Not sure how it will all get straightened out, but if we win they will be forced to straighten it out [the manner in which petition signatures have been verified in the past], across the state," Schintzius tells me.
Win or lose, Alan Schintzius won't stop until, “[I] ensure every registered voter that signs a petition will have their signatures recognized.”
And for those who have been wondering about that #RichmondFamous lawyer-turned-mayoral candidate representing Mr. Schintzius...
"Joe Morrissey has spent more time talking to reporters than he has spent on the lawsuit." Paul Goldman has put over 300 hours of work into the case. According to Mr. Schintzius, Morrissey is just signing papers and pulling in publicity, but since Goldman is licensed to practice in NJ instead of Virginia, the lawsuit is under the auspices of the firm. “Joe Morrissey is not representing the voters who are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit." Morrissey is barred from practicing in federal court so Mr. Schintzius had to retain attorney the services of Mark Paullin. Paullin is a local lawyer licensed to practice in federal court, hired to work with Paul Goldman to facilitate Goldman's one time admittance to work on the this case in Federal Court.
UPDATE: I just spoke with Mr. Schintzius after losing his bid for injunction this morning. Judge John Gibney found that the evidence wasn't there for the injunction, but is still moving forward rather quickly with the trial, set for Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. The Judge welcomed Paul Goldman to the Court after Mr. Paullin's efforts to get him admitted were successful. Judge Gibney admonished both sides that this case is not over and cautioned the city about moving forward with election materials too quickly.