The Republican challenger to Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell on Wednesday sued the state over what she says is a change in absentee-ballot rules that gives the speaker an unfair advantage ahead of next month’s primary. Susan Stimpson, a former Stafford County supervisor and onetime Howell protege, filed suit in Stafford County Circuit Court against the state Board of Elections. The lawsuit is part of a bitter Republican primary contest between Howell, a 28-year incumbent, and Stimpson in the Fredericksburg-area district. She has accused Howell of favoring tax-and-spend policies out of line with conservative principles, while he has trumpeted his connection to the district and leadership of the Republican House supermajority.
At issue is a May 13 decision by the Board of Elections to let voters sign absentee-ballot request forms electronically instead of printing out the forms, signing them with a pen and e-mailing back a scanned attachment or mailing the forms through the post office. The all-digital process lets voters skip the step of printing out the forms.
It also makes it easier for campaigns, parties and groups to submit requests on voters’ behalf — as Howell’s campaign does through his Web site.