The hectic final days of Richmond’s 2016 mayoral race, complicated by multiple last-minute candidate dropouts, have inspired Virginia lawmakers to inject a small dose of order into the electoral process. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation this month that lays out a formal procedure for how local election officials handle candidates withdrawing from an election after it’s too late to have their names removed from the ballot. Three of the eight candidates who qualified for the mayoral ballot pulled out of the race after the ballots had been printed. “That was unprecedented,” said Richmond Registrar J. Kirk Showalter. “But then we’ve never had quite as many candidates for mayor either.”
The biggest eleventh-hour turn of events was former city councilman Jon Baliles’ decision to drop out of the race the week before the election and endorse the eventual victor, Mayor Levar Stoney, three days before Election Day. Bobby “BJ” Junes, a retired real estate consultant, dropped out of the race on Nov. 4. Former city councilman Bruce Tyler withdrew in late September.
Not all of the mayoral dropouts submitted official paperwork that would have allowed local registrars to post public notices announcing the full list of withdrawn candidates. Junes filed a formal notice well in advance of the election, and Baliles filed notice in the final hours of the campaign.