Little-known Obama challenger could get delegate
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."
Scarbro said he also believes the national party changed its rules to require candidates to be on the ballot in multiple states in order to have delegates to the national convention.
"I think they did that to eliminate 'favorite son' candidates," he said, referring to the now-rare practice of state delegations throwing support to a local politician, rather than supporting the national candidates for president.
Judd, a frequent dark-horse candidate for president, was on the 2008 Idaho primary ballot, finishing a distant third behind Obama and Hillary Clinton, with 1.7 percent of the vote.
Judd was able to gain access to the West Virginia primary ballot thanks to the state's comparatively liberal ballot access laws, which require only that candidates meet residency, age and any other eligibility requirements for the particular office, and pay the filing fee.
Conversely, neighboring Virginia has one of the nation's toughest ballot access requirements. Candidates for president must obtain 10,000 signatures from registered state voters, with at least 400 signatures from each of the state's 11 congressional districts. Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were the only two Republican candidates to appear in the Virginia presidential primary this year.
Judd, who is not on the ballot in any other state this year, distributed a position paper to state media.
In it, Judd appears to oppose national health care reform on the grounds that it violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that powers not designated to the U.S. government are sovereign to the states.
Judd also cites the 10th Amendment in arguing that incarcerated felons should not be disqualified from voting.
Reach Phil Kabler at email@example.com or 304-348-1220.