Pinkney Eppes, a longtime advocate for Richmond children and, among other things, a former president of the Richmond Council of PTAs, learned late Thursday night that she was three petition signatures short of the necessary 125 from registered 9th District voters. The email was sent at almost 9 p.m. by Richmond Registrar Kirk Showalter.
“Only me it could happen to,” says Pinkney Eppes, who sent her own email to Showalter today requesting a review of six signatures that were disqualified by the registrar’s office. Among those names was Dianiese Pinkney, also known as voter number 309879060 on the city’s voter roles. “That’s my daughter,” says Pinkney Eppes. “She’s definitely registered in the district.”
The younger Pinkney did not list her address on the petition, Pinkney Eppes acknowledges, but as was the case with all six names, she was able to go through the voter rolls provided to her by Showalter’s office and verify them. “I don’t know why someone in their office couldn’t do their due diligence, too.”
Showalter says she has reviewed the signatures in question and determined that each was disqualified on legitimate technicalities.
“In this case — and I will not be doing this with every [disqualified] candidate — I was able to explain why each was not qualified,” Showalter says, citing by example, Pinkney Eppes’ daughter. “The address is a requirement of the code of Virginia.”
Two other signatures, from A.L. Green and Calvin Whitley, were both disqualified because there were two registered voters with the same names living at those addresses. Neither signer included the last four numbers of their Social Security numbers, meaning there was no way Showalter could verify which person with each name at those addresses had signed Pinkney Eppes’ petitions.
The partial Social Security number, while asked for on the petitions, is optional under Virginia law. Address is absolutely required. And perhaps most significantly, prospective candidates are ultimately responsible for ensuring that petition signers provide all necessary information — even in the case of their daughter.
“We have to take the petitions as they stand as presented to us,” Showalter says, noting that there is no legal mechanism to do a formal review — or to change the results — because there is no such review allowed in Virginia law.
That’s technically true, confirms Chris Piper, a senior official with the Virginia Board of Elections.
“There’s no formal process,” Piper says. “But it’s not impossible. Showalter could … acknowledge an error if her office made a mistake.”
And should Showalter stand by her determinations of the disputed voters, will Pinkney Eppes continue?
“Yes, I'm going to run,” says Pinkney Eppes, who says she’s prepared to press onward as a write-in candidate.
Pinkney Eppes is not alone in failing to make the ballot for this November’s citywide elections for City Council, School Board and mayor. Two prospective candidates failed to qualify for the mayoral race, leaving Mayor Dwight C. Jones to run uncontested.
But she is alone in that hers is the only race that now has no certified candidate at all.
“It happens all the time,” says Piper of races statewide where no candidate manages to meetthe criteria to be certified to have their name on the ballot. In such cases, determined candidates simply do as Pinkney Eppes plans to do, while being extra careful to complete all their various quarterly filings with the state election board.
As a write-in candidate, Pinkney Eppes says she accepts that she may face an unusual uphill challenge in reaching prospective voters.
“I have to educate people on how to spell my name,” she says, acutely aware that a name like Tichi is one strike and that Pinkney and Eppes are no walks in the spelling park, either.
“I will spend the summer educating people on how to do a write-in on a ballot,” she says, planning on having hundreds of sample ballots printed. “I'm going to have to spend money I wasn't going to have to spend.”