The Virginia State Board of Elections announced Monday evening it would allow a Democratic primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Jim Moran on the ballot after initially disqualifying him.
Bruce Shuttleworth, an Arlington resident, filed a lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. In the lawsuit, he claims Democratic Party officials failed to certify valid signatures his campaign collected from voters residing in the 8th Congressional District, leaving Moran the only candidate to be certified for the ballot.
The Washington Post reported Monday evening that Justin Riemer, deputy secretary of the State Board of Elections, said the state Democratic party had certified Shuttleworth’s name. Riemer did not say why the board changed its decision.
Shuttleworth had sued the chairman of the state Democratic Party, Brian Moran, who is Jim Moran’s brother. He also named as defendants in his lawsuit Margo Horner, chairwoman of the Democratic 8th Congressional District Committee of the state party; Charles Judd, chairman of the Virginia State Board of Elections; Donald Palmer, secretary of the state elections board; and the general registrars of boards of elections in Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax and Arlington counties.
Brian Moran said in an interview earlier Monday, before the decision to allow Shuttleworth on the ballot, that the state party would hire counsel and determine what the legal consequences of the lawsuit are. Of the merits of the lawsuit, he said, “It appears he is taking a scattershot approach to finding a remedy.”
Brian Moran also ruled out that his relationship with his brother influenced the final ballot.
“There’s no connection between the two when it comes to ballot access,” he said. “There are laws that pertain to including the necessary signatures, so there’s no connection to the party’s involvement and his lack of access to the ballot.”
Dispute Over Validity of Signatures
According to the lawsuit, Shuttleworth claims his campaign submitted 168 petitions with 1,823 signatures of registered voters in the 8th District to the state Democratic Party on March 29 — far more than the required 1,000 signatures. Last week, Shuttleworth claims, he received a voicemail informing him Horner had refused to certify the names to the State Board of Elections.
Party officials, he claims, erroneously and unlawfully invalidated more than 800 signatures, leaving him only 17 signatures short of the 1,000 mark.
In March, according to the lawsuit, the General Assembly changed the law to state that petition circulators must live in Virginia, with the change going into effect March 7. The state party’s count therefore excluded 36 signatures obtained by Shuttleworth’s campaign manager, who is not a Virginia resident. Shuttleworth claims he had no knowledge that the law had been changed until last Thursday.
As recently as last Tuesday, Shuttleworth claims, State Board of Elections staff were informing him the law had not changed and was still pending.
Shuttleworth also claims that valid signatures were unlawfully excluded because some petition sheets were never considered, some voters moved but stayed within the district, some voters omitted their Social Security numbers, decisions were made not to confirm voters’ identities and that one document was stapled when it should have been copied as a two-sided document.
During a meeting Thursday, Shuttleworth claims, Horner did not provide him detailed information on the rejected signatures and returned only 122 of the total set of 168 petitions.
Shuttleworth had planned to hold a news conference Tuesday in Alexandria about the lawsuit. It was unclear Monday night whether he would still make an appearance.