Nick Freitas has a problem with details.
The Culpeper County Republican might have to get over that in a hurry if he wants to remain in politics—and possibly save his party’s majority in the House of Delegates.
Because Freitas and a local party official failed to submit Freitas’ candidate paperwork on time and to the correct people in Richmond, Freitas’ name will not appear on the ballot for the House seat to which he was likely to be re-elected in a walk to a third term.
Is it an embarrassment?
One would think a politician knows to sweat the little things that have big implications. First among them: If you can’t get on the ballot, you’ll have a tougher time getting to the General Assembly.
Does it mean Republicans could lose the seat?
As of now, the only name on the ballot is that of a Democrat, Ann Ridgeway. This could force Republicans to build from the ground up an apparatus to inform voters that—Freitas’ presumed absence, notwithstanding—there is a GOP candidate. They would also instruct voters how to write in Freitas’ name.
Unless the State Board of Elections allows his name on the ballot, Freitas, who found time to meddle in a bruising GOP nomination fight for a Hanover County-anchored House seat, will have no choice but to run as a write-in in a nearly 60% Trump district that spans the pastoral countryside of Culpeper, Orange and Madison counties.
Write-in campaigns are about details.
That’s why they are often long shots, though they occasionally produce jaw-dropping surprises.
There is a powerful lesson in this for Freitas, an outspoken conservative with a presumed interest in going to Congress (watch out, Abigail Spanberger).
Freitas will have to spend money not just on the customary advertising but on instructional material that explains why his name is missing and how voters can still cast ballots for him.
Also, there will have to be a small army of workers to stop voters outside the polls, ask whether they will be supporting a Republican for the House, then hand them a combination guide ballot-instruction sheet on how to write in Freitas’ name.
That would include reminding people how to spell Freitas’ name, one not as easily remembered as Jones, Smith or—possibly—Ridgeway. State law allows for misspelled names on write-in ballots if officials can determine a voter’s preference.
Inside the polling stations, election officers accountable to the registrars can assist people submitting write-in votes. The officers can tell them how to vote, not for whom to vote.
Optical-scan voting machines are used across the state, but the models vary from locality to locality. The three counties in Freitas’ district use machines built by different manufacturers. That adds a technical nuance to the write-in process.
With optical-scan machines, a voter marks a paper ballot with a pen, filling in a circle next the candidate’s name. The completed ballot is then scanned—and counted—by an electronic reader.
Casting a write-in ballot is slightly different. A voter first marks a separate circle designated for a write-in candidate, then writes the candidate’s name. The scanner makes a picture of that ballot.
What’s not clear—and this presumes Freitas ends up running as a write-in—is whether the write-in votes are broken down on election night by the names of candidates who receive them.
Typically, it would only be by vote total, because—typically—write-in candidates don’t win.
Details, details, details.