The West Virginia Legislature can control who can get on a primary election ballot, but it can’t exceed federal law on a candidate’s eligibility, election officials said. State officials and others have been looking at options after imprisoned felon Keith Judd attracted nearly 41 percent of the vote against President Barack Obama this month in the West Virginia primary. While there have been criticisms Judd should never have gotten on the ballot, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said Judd met all of the legal requirements to be on the ballot. Judd qualified for the Democratic primary ballot after he mailed in a candidacy form and paid a $2,500 filing fee from Texas. He’s serving a 17-year federal prison sentence in Texas. Statewide results from the May 8 primary show Judd with 73,138 votes to Obama’s 106,770.
“The important thing to point out is that the state Legislature can only change ballot access laws,” said Jake Glance, a spokesman for Tennant. “It cannot add more requirements on who may hold federal office – the United States Constitution determines that, not West Virginia code. We have said that we are willing to work with the legislature and county clerks to change the ballot access procedures.”
A number of states require presidential primary candidates to gather voter signatures. However, in some states those requirements have kept some mainstream candidates off the ballot. In Virginia, such a requirement kept Texas Gov. Rick Perry, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman off the ballot in that state.