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A republic works best, as John Adams so aptly said, because we “we are a nation of laws, and not of men.” This means that as a people we can strive for uniformity and consistency by drafting laws that are for fair for everyone. This is the premise behind a representative government that defines a republic theoretically protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Political philosopher John Locke, upon whose writings much of our constitution was based, wrote of a social contract where people are born with natural and inalienable rights, and that the only right people give up in order to enter into civil society is the right to punish other people for violating rights. The organizing of a society is then left to elected representatives to do what is best for that society in securing those rights—a task left to the legislative body.

That legislative body is then charged with creating laws, rules and procedures to ensure protection and the common good of the people. It is not the intent of a legislature to draft rules solely for punitive measure or the maintenance of a perceived power, but always for society as a whole.

This is why the spirit of a law so often brought up. French political philosopher, Montesquieu, a great influence on our founders, wrote in his treatise that one of the central ideas of “The Spirit of the Laws” is that a country’s government corresponds with their principles. The letter of the law, when not in keeping with principles of the republic, may be defined by the spirit of the law—asking: Why is the law written, and for what purpose?

The laws and regulations that govern candidates for office were never written to be punitive or hard-lined, and certainly not for partisan advantage. They were written to ensure that candidates would meet minimum standards for the office, and demonstrate support to maintain the integrity of the election, and the office. This is why the election boards have always exercised their freedom of liberty to do what was in the best interest of the election itself. There are oft-times extenuating, if not bizarre, circumstances that require a look at the spirit of the law.

A driving and foundational principle of the American republic is choice and fair competition in the electoral process to ensure the people have a voice. Therefore the spirit of any law should be employed in all decisions related to these elections.

Unlike other elections where this was rightly employed, the recent case with Nick Freitas, who currently represents Virginia’s 30th District, including part of Culpeper and all of Orange and Madison counties, is bizarrely handled.

In Freitas’ reelection bid, he and others missed deadlines required to submit routine paperwork to establish his name as officially on the ballot in November as the Republican candidate for office. In denying Freitas’ subsequent efforts to overcome these errors, the elections board has blatantly made a decision that has disenfranchised an entire sector of the electorate, leaving the people of the 30th District without the fundamental principle of choice, because now, only one candidate, representing one party, will be on the ballot.

Basing this decision on a clerical error that missed a deadline is odd, and suspect. These deadlines have been surpassed before, and I have personally experienced such occasions. Extending the date would not have interfered with the spirit of the candidate-certifying process.

Rightly so, Delegate Freitas will engage in a write-in campaign. I applaud him for this as it offers the people a choice, one the election board denied. More importantly, it gives the people of the 30th District the chance to demonstrate that we are still in charge, that the board’s misguided decision will not stand as the final word—that the decision ultimately rests where it belongs: With the people. I urge all voters of this district to ensure they learn the write-in procedure and vote for Del. Freitas as a write-in this November, regardless of your party affiliation. The right for electoral choice is non-partisan.

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Timothy P. Cotton, a Culpeper County resident, is the national director of operations of the Alliance Party .