Judge dismisses lawsuit attempting to remove McAuliffe from November ballot

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The rejected lawsuit is one of two filed against the Democratic gubernatorial nominee that aims to effectively remove him from the contest.

A judge in Virginia on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit that had sought to disqualify Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe from the Virginia gubernatorial ballot in November.

According to Lynchburg ABC affiliate WSET-TV, the lawsuit was reportedly filed by a group of civil rights activists, the majority of whom were Democrats, who had hoped to remove McAuliffe's name from the ballot and hold a special election "to select someone who isn't an invalid candidate." The suit claimed McAuliffe had filed his declaration of candidacy improperly by not signing the form.

Richmond circuit court Judge Bradley B. Cavedo on Wednesday ruled that the plaintiffs' arguments "[did] not state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted" and dismissed their lawsuit "with prejudice" — meaning the ruling is final and cannot be appealed.

It is one of two lawsuits seeking to remove McAuliffe from the ballot, after he handily won the Democratic nomination in June.

The Republican Party of Virginia filed a lawsuit in August also claiming that McAuliffe "must be disqualified from appearing on any general election ballot" over the lack of signature on his declaration form.

Democrats in the state quickly criticized the move and even one Republican, former Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, dismissed the suit as "desperate," saying it did nothing but "make the Republican Party of Virginia look silly."

It's unclear where the Republican Party lawsuit stands currently. However, legal experts told the Associated Press when it was first filed that they did not believe a judge would toss McAuliffe from the ballot this late in the game.

Early voting has now been underway for more than a week, with McAuliffe listed on the ballot as the Democratic nominee. And Election Day is a little more than a month away on Nov. 2.

McAuliffe is running for a second, non-consecutive term as governor of Virginia. Virginia law doesn't allow for governors to serve consecutive terms in the state, but does not explicitly prohibit former governors from running again in future contests.

The former governor is facing off against Republican Glenn Youngkin, who has come under scrutiny for his various stances on vaccines, abortion, and his debunked claims that Critical Race Theory is being taught in the state's public schools.

The judge's decision on Wednesday came hours after Youngkin and McAuliffe faced off in a general election debate, during which Youngkin struggled to confront questions about his contrasting opinions on mandates for COVID-19 vaccines and mandates for others, including the MMR (or "measles, mumps, and rubella") vaccine.

Youngkin eventually relented, saying that some vaccines "can be mandatory" before adding, "I do believe the COVID vaccine is one that everyone should get, but we shouldn't mandate it."

Polling shows both men in a tight but steady contest, in which McAuliffe has had a lead the entirety of the race. Currently, a FiveThirtyEight average puts McAuliffe at a 3-point lead over Youngkin.

The nonpartisan political newsletter Inside Elections has rated the race a "Likely Democratic" contest, while the nonpartisan Cook Political Report says the race is a "toss up."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.