An imprisoned felon’s surprising showing in West Virginia’s Tuesday primary has officials reviewing the rules governing how candidates get their names on the ballot. Keith Judd received more than 72,400 votes against President Barack Obama, around 41 percent of the total, providing stark evidence of the incumbent Democrat’s unpopularity in the state. Judd has run for president since at least 1996, frequently petitioning to get on the ballot in West Virginia and other states. But since 1999, he’s pursued his candidacies from federal prison: he’s serving a 17-year sentence for making threats, and is currently held at the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institute in Texas. Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo sees this topic as ripe for legislative review during the monthly interim study meetings that begin next week.
“I’m not sure what exactly we can do,” the Kanawha County Democrat said Thursday. “I think we should certainly take the time and the effort to try to prevent that from happening in the future.” Judd is not the first imprisoned felon to seek the presidency. Eugene Debbs, a socialist leader and labor activist, waged his final campaign for the White House while behind bars in 1920. More recently, fringe politician and perennial candidate Lyndon LaRouche ran for president in 1992 while serving a 15-year sentence for mail fraud and tax conspiracy. LaRouche appeared on several state primary ballots that year including West Virginia’s, where he received 3,141 votes.