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Court explains reasoning on VA absentee ballot court order.

OK, let me try to explain just what is going on in this court order involving the VA GOP primary ballot. For those who came in late: back in December, Virginia’s primary registration system ended up producing a result where only two Republican candidates (Mitt Romney and Ron Paul) qualified for the ballot. This resulted in some frankly unkind things said about virtually everyone involved in the process, from the candidates to the Republican party of Virginia – usually involving competence levels, although conspiracy theorizing certainly wasn’t underrepresented. While that was going on, Gov. Rick Perry filed a lawsuit (one later joined by Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum*) challenging the constitutionality of the process. Yesterday the judge hearing the case ordered the Commonwealth of Virginia not to issue absentee ballots; today’s order explains why.

To clarify: this order does not actually indicate that the court will rule in favor of the plaintiffs on Friday. It instead indicates that there is a very strong possibility that the court may order in favor of the plaintiffs on Friday on at least one count (specifically, on the constitutionality of mandating only in-state petition circulators). So while it would be reasonable to bet that this order will result in more candidates being added to the ballot, it is not yet a done deal. It is also possible that the court will rule that there were unconstitutional restrictions on who could circulate a ballot, yet come up with a remedy that will still exclude one or more candidates. Never underestimate a legal judgement’s capacity for convoluted thinking. But the courts, historically speaking, have been forgiving when it comes to voter access; so, again, it’s reasonable to bet that Friday’s decision will result in more candidates being added to the ballot**.

Also: if you’ve been arguing from the start that this case was self-evidently without merit, well, you should probably stop doing that. Hey, don’t take it up with me. Take it up with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

*For the record: all three campaigns potentially owe the Perry campaign a big favor on this.

**Which, by the way, will almost certainly mean that Romney will still win Virginia. A pity that they didn’t take the high road, here: you’d think that any competent campaign would have seen the advantages of taking a principled position that wouldn’t have actually cost them anything…

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