Delegate Dan Helmer (D-Fairfax) has introduced a bill that would largely ban conventions as a nomination process for political candidates. Effective in 2024, HB 2020 would, with some exceptions, effectively prohibit forms of nomination that exclude voters who might have difficulty making it to a meeting.
The bill summary states that any nomination method is prohibited that effectively excludes active duty military, out-of-state students, people temporarily out of the country, disabled people, or people who may transmit or contract a disease. Party processes like conventions and mass meetings typically require participants to be present in-person.
In a statement, Helmer said, “All this bill does is ensure that a soldier in a foxhole in Afghanistan has an opportunity to participate in party nominating processes. We think every member of the General Assembly should be able to get behind ensuring our service members are able to participate in selecting their nominee. HB 2020 does not prohibit any type of process, including conventions and caucuses. It just ensures that they are accessible to our troops on the front lines as well as students, people with disabilities, and those who may be sick with a highly contagious illness.”
“This doesn’t totally rule out conventions, but mostly it does,” former Chair of the Republican Party of Norfolk Pam Brown said.
The bill does make some exceptions for special elections and allowing incumbents to pick a method. It is similar to Helmer’s 2020 bill HB 216, which died in committee.
“It would seem to ban almost any nomination method other than a state one. Bills like this are a regular occurrence in the [General Assembly,]” Prince William County GOP Vice-Chairman Willie Deutsch told The Virginia Star. “The state regulating how a private organization can make its own decisions is definitely not a good idea.”
Deutsch thinks it’s unlikely to pass, but Brown thinks the bill could see bipartisan support. Brown said she supports the bill, especially since she doesn’t think the complications of COVID-19 and other diseases are going away any time soon.
“Some people may look at this as bad but honestly, I’m tired of spending my time dealing with conventions because it’s such a huge effort,” Brown said.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Dan Helmer” by Dan Helmer. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Taber Andrew Bain CC BY 2.0