Braving bitter cold, campaign staffers for state Sen. Bryce E. Reeves camped out all weekend in front of the state Board of Elections, determined to get his name listed first on the ballot for the June 13 GOP primary for lieutenant governor of Virginia. Sunday night, they got some company on the sidewalk. Staffers for gubernatorial hopeful Corey A. Stewart lined up behind them, confident for the next 12 bone-chilling hours that they, too, had snagged the top ballot position in their race. Under state code, name placement on primary ballots is determined by the order in which the requisite paperwork is filed. In the competition to get candidates top billing, playing out on the coldest weekend of the year, it seemed the race would go to the hardiest. But the frigid vigils were for naught.
Turns out, there’s a little wiggle room in the state’s first-come, first-listed approach. If two or more candidates file simultaneously, state code says the order is determined by drawing lots. But the code does not define “simultaneously.”
The Reeves and Stewart campaigns were at the front of the line well before anyone else showed up. But since, under state code, the board cannot start accepting candidate filings until noon on March 13, elections officials called it a tie for anyone in line by that hour.
The campaigns undertook their late-winter camp-outs on advice from a state elections policy analyst, who had assured them that the first in line would be rewarded with prime ballot placement. State Elections Commissioner Ed Cortés acknowledged Monday afternoon that the analyst had gotten it wrong.