Former Richmond mayoral candidate Alan Schintzius filed a lawsuit in Richmond Circuit Court on Tuesday to appear on the November ballot.
The lawsuit alleges that Richmond General Registrar J. Kirk Showalter knowingly discarded valid signatures of registered voters, causing Schintzius to fall short of a threshold candidates seeking to appear on the ballot were required to meet. An appeals process that followed was “unfair, unreasonable and unconstitutional,” the suit alleges, and the city’s three-member electoral board that voted down Schintzius’ appeal “failed in their oversight” by applying a “rubber stamp” to Showalter’s recommendation that the appeal be denied.
“The real issue is that 10 people who signed my petition who are registered voters had their right to participate in the political process thrown out by Kirk Showalter by disqualifying their signatures and refusing to do even a reasonable amount of work with the evidence she had in her possession,” Schintzius said in an interview Wednesday morning.
Six individuals who signed Schintzius’ petitions but had their signatures nullified are co-plaintiffs on the lawsuit. Schintzius also filed an injunction asking the court to prevent the general registrar from printing ballots until the matter is settled.
The suit names as defendants Showalter; members of the city’s three-person electoral board; members of the state’s three-person electoral board; and Edgardo Cortes, commissioner of the state Department of Elections. In an email, Showalter wrote, "Unfortunately I cannot comment on something which I have not yet seen." An email and phone call to Cortes on Wednesday were not returned before publication of this story.
Candidates seeking to appear on the November ballot had to file 500 signatures of registered voters by June 14, including at least 50 from each of the nine voter districts. After the deadline, Showalter’s office notified Schintzius that he had not reached the 50-signature threshold in South Richmond’s 8th District. Schintzius appealed the decision at an Electoral Board meeting in late June, but the board deemed him four signatures shy.
At that point, he approached Paul Goldman, a longtime Democratic operative and law partner of Richmond mayoral candidate Joe Morrissey. Goldman helped Schintzius pitch the case to a national law firm, which ultimately turned it down, he said. Rather than drop the matter, Schintzius decided to proceed with Morrissey and Goldman’s firm, Goldman said, citing its track record of handling cases related to voting and ballot issues. The firm is handling the case pro bono, according to Goldman.
In a phone interview, Goldman dismissed the idea that the case stemmed from political gamesmanship.
"People have already commented about the case without reading the brief. That tells you how much they care about the facts. Let them read the brief and criticize the brief ... . The legal issues are really what counts."
Despite Morrissey’s connection to the case and the mayoral race, Schintzius insists the lawsuit has nothing to do with politics; it's about reforming the system by which signatures are certified and invalidated signatures are appealed, he says.
“The story isn’t about a political sideshow between Morrissey and me; it really is about serious constitutional issues,” Schintzius says. “It’s about civil rights, social justice and voting rights issues.”