CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Usually, it takes a majority of votes to win an election, but part of one contest today could hinge on whether the challenger can get 15 percent of the vote.
Under state and national Democratic Party rules, if little-known Democratic presidential candidate Keith Judd secures 15 percent of the vote in today's election, he will technically be entitled to have at least one delegate from West Virginia at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Which could be problematic, since Judd is also known as Inmate No. 11593-051 at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas, where he is serving a 210-month sentence for extortion.
"Can you see the media circus they'll have with West Virginia if that happens?" West Virginia Wesleyan political science professor Robert Rupp said Monday.
Rupp said Judd getting 15 percent of the Democratic vote isn't beyond the realm of possibility, given President Barack Obama's poor poll numbers in the state. A recent statewide poll, for instance, projected that Republican Mitt Romney would carry West Virginia over Obama by a 54 percent to 37 percent margin.
"Also, when you have the top Democrats in the state expressing doubts about this president, would there be more inclination to cast a protest vote?" asked Rupp, referring to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who so far have both declined to endorse Obama.
"When voters go to cast a protest vote, they never know who they're voting for. It's who they're voting against," Rupp said of possible votes for Judd.
State Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Scarbro said Monday he has calls in to the Democratic National Committee regarding contingencies in the event Judd draws 15 percent of the vote.
"I am researching it," Scarbro said.
One issue, he said, is that no one has filed to be a Judd delegate to the national convention, and it is unclear how the party would designate such a delegate or delegates, or if anyone would even agree to accept the appointment.
"While it is uncertain what amount of votes Mr. Judd will get tomorrow, it is not likely that he will earn any delegates to the national convention," Scarbro said Monday. "No one filed to run as a national convention delegate to support him for president and he may not be eligible to serve anyway, since he is currently an inmate in a federal prison."