- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2012

Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil H. Goode Jr. will be on the November ballot in his home state of Virginia, but Republican fears that the former congressman could play spoiler for Mitt Romney should be lessened by recent polls showing Mr. Goode in the low single digits.

Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II on Friday reaffirmed Mr. Goode’s spot on the ballot after the State Board of Elections, at the behest of the Republican Party of Virginia, asked for an investigation into possible irregularities in Mr. Goode’s ballot petitions.

Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, had previously pledged there would be no bias in the inquiry, despite the potential electoral consequences.

“We call them like we see them,” Mr. Cuccinelli said.

The Republican Party of Virginia challenged the ballot petitions of both Mr. Goode and Libertarian Party candidate Gary E. Johnson, who has run into similar problems in other states. The Virginia State Board of Elections requested Mr. Cuccinelli look into allegations that Mr. Goode did not obtain the required amount of valid signatures. Candidates must collect 10,000 signatures, including at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts.

The Republican Party of Virginia acknowledged that individual volunteers make mistakes here and there, but also claimed there was “at best a systemic indifference resulting in the Goode campaign’s top circulators committing continuous and consistent violations of Virginia law.”

Mr. Goode consistently said he wasn’t aware of any fraud during the petition circulating. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat, said he thought the situation was emblematic of a larger pattern that has seen a number of GOP-led state legislatures pass voter-identification laws Democrats claim could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters, notably the poor, elderly and minorities.

“I think it’s part and parcel of a shameful philosophy that has somehow taken over the party of Lincoln,” Mr. Connolly said. “What’s the harm in letting people [get] on the ballot?”

A July poll from the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling firm showed Mr. Goode taking nearly 10 percent of the vote in his home state and increasing what was then an 8-point lead for President Obama in Virginia to 14 points. Republicans, both publicly and privately, expressed misgivings about Mr. Goode’s potentially tilting the state to President Obama and possibly handing him the election.

Recent polls, however, should calm those fears somewhat. A Washington Post/ABC poll gave Mr. Obama an 8-point advantage against Mr. Romney in a head-to-head matchup, 52 percent to 44 percent. Adding Mr. Johnson, Mr. Goode and Green Party candidate Jill Stein tugged Mr. Obama below 50 percent, but he still led by the same 8-point margin, at 48 percent to 40 percent. Four percent of voters favored Mr. Johnson, 2 percent favored Mr. Goode and 1 percent favored Ms. Stein. The poll’s party-identification breakdown was also 32 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican, and 35 percent independent.

Further, in a recent PPP poll that sampled Democrats, Republicans and independents almost evenly, Mr. Johnson took 2 percent, Mr. Goode and Ms. Stein took 1 percent, and Mr. Obama led Mr. Romney by 5 points, 51 percent to 46 percent.

Virginia was one of the states that passed a voter-identification law this year, but unlike some other states, people will not have to provide photo identification to vote and the law actually expands the number of acceptable documents to include forms like student IDs, utility bills and bank statements. When Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the law, he also issued an executive directive ordering the State Board of Elections to send new voter-registration cards to Virginia’s 4.7 million active registered voters in the state and develop an outreach program to ensure the legislation adds no “inconvenience, confusion or hardship to the Commonwealth’s voters.”

More than 30 states have enacted some form of voter-ID law in recent years. Federal and state courts have blocked similar laws in Texas, South Carolina and Wisconsin, but laws have been upheld in Indiana and Georgia in recent years.