Now that Virginia is set for a March 1 presidential primary, a new scramble starts — to qualify for the ballot in this vital swing state. Newly official presidential candidates Jim Webb and Chris Christie and the 20 other 2016 hopefuls will have to amass 5,000 valid signatures — at least 200 in each of the state’s 11 congressional districts — to make the Virginia ballot. State lawmakers cut the signature requirement in half after the 2012 debacle in which only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas qualified for Virginia’s Republican primary.
Virginia’s signature requirement still ranks with Indiana and Illinois as one of the three toughest in the country, says Richard Winger, publisher of Ballot Access News, a newsletter based in San Francisco. “In the majority of states that have presidential primaries, if (candidates) are discussed in the news media, they go on (the ballot) automatically,” Winger said.
Virginia officials have made another significant change that will make it a bit easier for candidates to qualify for the 2016 primary. This time, people who gather signatures for presidential candidates no longer have to be Virginia residents.