Ken Cuccinelli is…Wrong?

Picture from Ken Cuccinelli's Facebook Page

Less than twenty-four hours ago, Fox News reported that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is planning to intervene in Virginia’s presidential primary process by filing a bill to allow more candidates on the March 6th ballot.

In case you haven’t been following the story, let me give you a bit of background.  Virginia requires candidates seeking to be on the Virginia statewide ballot to collect signatures from 10,000 registered voters in the commonwealth, with at least 400 coming from each of Virginia’s eleven congressional districts.  It is one of the most stringent requirements of any state in the nation.  Four of the Republican Presidential candidates submitted signatures by the December 22nd deadline and the Republican Party of Virginia deemed that only two of these candidates, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, filed a sufficient number of valid signatures.

On the surface, the idea of allowing more of the candidates to appear on the ballot seems perfectly valid.  After all, offering the maximum number of choices will allow a voter to pick the candidate that best matches his or her ideology rather than selecting among the “lesser of two evils”, which, unfortunately, is often the only choice presented.

However, upon closer examination, the Attorney General’s campaign appears to be misguided.  The Republican Party of Virginia set out the requirements for the candidates well in advance on the December 22nd deadline.  Bring us 10,000 valid signatures and you are in; fail to do so and tough luck.  Although not all of the details are completely clear, we do know that Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Perry each submitted signatures by December 22nd, while the other candidates did not.  Romney, by virtue of submitting over 15,000 signatures, was declared an official candidate without requiring checking his signatures.  After scrutiny, Paul met the mark.  Both Gingrich and Perry fell short as a result of some combination of either not submitting a sufficient number, including voters who did not properly fill out the form, not having the formed properly notarized, and/or by using signature collectors who were not registered voters in Virginia.

Now, as stated earlier, one can certainly argue that Virginia’s requirements to get on the statewide ballot are too high.  That topic is a reasonable point that ought to be discussed.  However, that matter should have been addressed prior to the point at which candidates were certified for the ballot.  Why did no one raise a big fuss until after the votes were counted?  Was the process fair and reasonable until certain preferred candidates were excluded?

To draw a parallel, this situation reminds me of grade school students participating in either an academic or athletic competition.  After the event is over and their kid ends up losing, parents scream to either the referee or the administration that the process was rigged and his or her kid would have won if only the rules were fair (i.e. laid out in such a way as to favor him).  In the parents’ minds it is irrelevant that the agreed upon rules were followed and clearly explained ahead of time.  Principles don’t matter; winning is everything!

Would I have liked to see more candidates on Virginia’s ballot?  Sure.  When it comes to elections, I’m pro-choice.  As I’ve written previously, I collected signatures for both Paul and Johnson and signed forms for every candidate who asked.  So then was I disappointed to discover that Gary Johnson would not be on the ballot?  Of course!  Nevertheless, as the rules were clearly stated, the proper course of action wasn’t to fume and shout, demanding that the Republican Party of Virginia break the agreed upon standards just because the results were not quite what I hoped.  What sorts of arguments can Gingrich and Perry offer in their defense?  We didn’t expect you to review our signatures.  You would have never known that we were cheating if you didn’t check our work!  Do you consider these excuses valid?

By stepping into this mess, I worry that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli doesn’t have as strong a framework regarding the rule of law as I had hoped.  Don’t get me wrong; if the process is too hard, then it should be changed prior to the next statewide signature collection process, the 2012 Senate race.  However, one shouldn’t go back and tinker with the December 22nd results.  That event is over and, be it for better or worse, Perry and Gingrich competed under the stated rules and lost.  They should not be retroactively given the chance to compete after legitimately failing the required drug test.

Election laws should not be changed on a whim.  Even worse, they must not be modified after the results are tabulated and announced.  Although such a move is common among third-world despots, I’d like to think that Virginians have a bit more respect for free and fair election processes.  Therefore, for the sake of our electoral process, I must oppose the actions of any elected official who is trying to make a mockery of the December 22nd result, even if it happens to be one of my favorite leaders, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.  I sincerely hope that he realizes the ramifications of his actions and reverses course before it is too late.

SOPA: More Government Intrusion, Less Freedom, and an End to the Internet?

VC Note:  This article comes from Jamie Radtke, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.  Although the idea to “stop online piracy” sounds reasonable, the bill has a lot of other consequences that, whether intended or not, should trouble liberty-loving Americans.  Unfortunately, my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) is a strong supporter and co-sponsor of this legislation.

It’s dumb to use a sledgehammer to kill a mosquito, but it’s criminal if the mosquito is sitting on someone’s head at the time.

The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is criminal in the same way. Through SOPA, the U.S. government and private companies will be able to censor free speech by killing web sites they claim are engaging in, enabling or facilitating infringement of copyrights. The Attorney General (Eric Holder!) would have the power to kill any web site he desires by denying it access to search engines, advertisers and payment processors like Visa. By the time the web site appeals the government’s attack, it may already be out of business.

Furthermore, it is a short step from there to using the power of censorship to stop “hate speech,” “incitement,” or any other form of dissent through speech. Don’t forget, our own Department of Homeland Security issued a report not long ago called “Right Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” in which it branded as potential terrorists:

“…those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

Sound like anyone you know?

This is why I support the effort by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky to stop SOPA and similar bills that restrict freedom and give government more control of the Internet.  I encourage you to visit Senator Paul’s “Don’t Censor the Net” website and lend your support to his efforts as well.

Online piracy and copyright infringement are serious issues that must be addressed.  But empowering the U.S. government and private companies to unilaterally censor and shut-down alleged abusers is a dangerous over-reaction to the problem, and will almost certainly lead to greater censorship of free speech that the government doesn’t like.

SOPA must be stopped! The question is: Where does George Allen stand on protecting our 1st Amendment rights? Does he stand with the Special Interests and power-hungry bureaucrats in Washington who support this bill, or does he stand with the individual and his right to free speech?

Update:  I just got a request to link to two additional articles regarding SOPA and Representative Bob Goodlatte.  The first is written by Karen Kwiatowski and is entitled Bob Goodlatte-Protecting Us Online? Not so Much!  The second is by Kaleb Matson and is called Bob Goodlatte-Enemy of the Internet.