A judge refused to grant a temporary injunction Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Republican House candidate Susan Stimpson challenging the State Board of Elections’ recent decision to allow online absentee ballot applications.
Stimpson is running against House Speaker Bill Howell in Tuesday’s Republican primary in the 28th District, which includes parts of Stafford County and Fredericksburg.
The former Stafford supervisor filed suit last month over the board’s unanimous May 13 decision to allow absentee ballot applications to be submitted online with electronic signatures.
The lawsuit, prepared by Lynchburg attorney Rick Boyer on behalf of Stimpson, alleges that the state Board of Elections “acted arbitrarily and capriciously,” overstepped its authority and “took the regulatory action without meeting any of the notice requirements imposed by the Virginia Administrative Code.”
Stimpson contends that she wasn’t properly notified of the state Board of Elections’ decision, which came after the absentee voting period had already started.
Howell said his campaign simply asked the board to clarify its position on absentee ballot applications in the wake of a state attorney general’s opinion that electronic signatures were allowed on voting registration applications.
After the board made its ruling, Howell’s campaign created an absentee voting form on its website that allows for electronic signatures.
Local judges recused themselves from the case, so recently retired Judge Pamela S. Baskervill of Petersburg was brought in to hear arguments. While Baskervill said Thursday she was concerned about the integrity of the electoral process, she refused to grant an injunction to halt the online applications.
She said attorneys could make additional arguments after the primary.
After the ruling, Stimpson issued a statement through Boyer saying she was “glad to see that the judge was clearly concerned about the board’s changing the rules in the middle of the game.”
Boyer said Stimpson will continue the legal fight after Tuesday’s primary.
“Our concern is that the delay may send the message that powerful politicians like Bill Howell can change the rules in the middle of the game, and ordinary voters have no recourse until after the votes are counted, whether the votes were legal or not,” he wrote in the prepared statement.
Howell’s campaign also released a statement after the ruling.
“We’re pleased that the court validated our position, as we expected it would. We’re going to continue to run our campaign,” his spokesman, Matthew Moran, wrote.