Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s decision to quit Congress early is producing headaches back home, where elections officials worry that voters will be confused when they go to the polls on Nov. 4.
The ballot will have two different races for the state’s 7th Congressional District — one a special election for a member to serve two months of a lame-duck session in Congress, and the other to elect someone for the 114th Congress starting in January. But both election lines likely will feature the same two men — Democrat Jack Trammell and Republican David Brat, who unseated Mr. Cantor in the June primary.
In addition to what may look like double printing, the Libertarian Party candidate also argues the special election is “suspect at best” because signatures for third-party candidates to appear on the special ballot are due by Friday, leaving little time to collect the 1,000 names needed to earn a spot.
Constance Tyler, deputy registrar for Chesterfield County, said the process on Election Day will work like any other special election, but acknowledged seeing two sets of names will be difficult to handle for many.
“It will be confusing for the voters, of course,” she said.
Henrico County registrar Mark Coakley said he’s planning on making 2-by-3-foot posters of what a proper sample ballot looks like to place at polling locations. “We have plenty of questions,” he said.
But voters who rely on absentee ballots, such as military members or people living overseas, would be left out of that particular remedy, he acknowledged.
“I would hate for someone overseas to get a ballot thinking we misprinted it and send it back,” he said.
Mr. Cantor lost a primary in June to little-known tea party-backed challenger David Brat, and gave up his leader’s post at the end of July. But he went further, deciding to flee Capitol Hill effective Aug. 18, leaving his seat empty until a special election could be held.
He said having the simultaneous elections would save taxpayers money and said the timing ensures the victor, who would be seated immediately, will get seniority over the others who don’t begin to serve until January.
But the logistics are creating concerns throughout the heavily Republican district, which meanders north from the Richmond suburbs to the Shenandoah Valley.
The local chapters of both major parties actually control the nominating processes for their candidates in the special election. Democrats already have nominated Mr. Trammell, and Republicans are holding a meeting Thursday to nominate their candidate, who will presumably be Mr. Brat.
But there’s no such option for third-party candidates.
James Carr, who will be on the general election ballot as the Libertarian Party’s nominee, said the 10-day time frame to turn in 1,000 signatures puts candidates without party backing in a nearly impossible situation.
Mr. Carr acknowledged he’s unlikely to get on the ballot at this point, effectively forcing him to run a write-in campaign at the same time he’s trying to get his message to voters.