Decision 2024

Misleading effort to put third-party presidential candidate on Virginia ballot

Petition for Dr. Cornel West presented as petition to 'get Donald Trump off the ballot'

NBC Universal, Inc.

There’s an effort in Virginia to put a third-party presidential candidate on the ballot, but some of the signatures may have been collected under false pretenses.

A group in Northern Virginia with clipboards and petitions asking people if they wanted to sign to “get Donald Trump off the ballot” told News4 it was actually gathering signatures to get Dr. Cornel West on the ballot.

West, a former Harvard professor, is a well-known, left-wing social critic and political activist. He announced earlier this year he formed the Justice for All party and would be running for president.

The group collecting signatures for West would not say who enlisted it to go to Virginia or why some of them were misleading voters about the purpose of the petitions. 

“That’s very unfortunate and a lot of times people do lie but you can only go off based what people tell you, and you are supposed to read everything,” said Precious Edmonds, who signed the petition believing it was to get Trump off the ballot. 

The group’s leader said he was handing off the signed petitions to the state Republican party, but the party chairman said the Virginia GOP has nothing to do with the effort and that he was unaware it existed.

“It has absolutely nothing, zero, nada to do with the Republican Party of Virginia,” Rich Anderson said. “Our party rules that are defined in our Republican Party of Virginia plan expressly forbid assisting any candidate other than either a nominated or endorsed Republican.”

A campaign to get West on the ballot in North Carolina has been tied to GOP-linked operatives, NBC News reported. 

Virginia’s Democratic party chair says no matter who is behind the petition drive in the commonwealth, the goal is clear: to try to draw voters away from President Joe Biden. 

“Whether it’s RFK Jr., whether it’s Cornel West, whether it’s Jill Stein, these are summer reruns,” Susan Swecker said. “I’ve seen this play before. This is an effort to hurt Joe Biden.”

In Virginia, third-party candidates for president must get 5,000 signatures with at least 200 from each congressional district. The deadline is noon Aug. 23.

News4 emailed West’s campaign to find out if it coordinated with the Virginia petition effort but has not heard back. 

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