Democrat appeals to Board of Elections for ballot access in November

Democrat Trudy Berry expected her campaign to face an uphill battle in Senate District 9, a Republican stronghold on Virginia’s Southside where she hopes to face Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg.

But she did not expect to face an uphill battle qualifying for the ballot after a local election official — now deceased — failed to email candidate paperwork filings to the correct account.

Trudy Berry


Now, Berry hopes to take her case to the Virginia Board of Elections.

An email that Berry forwarded to the Richmond Times-Dispatch shows local Democratic committee official Clomeniea Oliver sending a party certification form to the Department of Elections on April 10, 2023, but the email address was missing the needed ‘.gov’ at the end to go through.

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Oliver died on July 19.

In Oliver’s April 10 email, both Jack Foley, a political director at the Democratic Party of Virginia, and Patricia Harper-Tunley, who chairs the 5th District Congressional Democratic Committee, were copied on the email. No one caught the mistake at the moment.

Now, Berry has secured legal representation that has sent a request to the state Board of Elections asking to declare her the Democratic nominee for the district, based in Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg counties and the city of Danville.

The matter could be discussed at the board’s Tuesday meeting, though it is not listed on the agenda.

Berry also pointed to instances where other candidates have been able to have paperwork issues fixed in order to appear on the ballot anyway.

In June 2021, when Del. Dave LaRock, R-Loudoun, asked for a reprieve after filing paperwork late, his case was taken up, and the board later granted his request to appear on the ballot. In 2019, the board also accepted late party nomination paperwork for Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott.

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Berry feels a precedent has been set because John O’Bannon, now the board chairman, was on the board during the time LaRock and Kilgore resolved paperwork issues.

“I mean, they’ve already set the precedent, they’ve invoked the law,” Berry said. “So they should also do the same for me. Right?”

In 2019, Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, was denied ballot access after his campaign submitted incomplete paperwork. He later mounted a successful write-in campaign.

When asked if she might run as a write-in candidate, Berry said she is leaning against it — she feels that if she did run a write-in candidacy, it would be “covering for the (Democratic) party.”

“If I don’t get on the ballot, it’s their fault. They are disenfranchising over 100,000 voters in this district. They are keeping another woman off the ballot — another woman of color,” said Berry, who is of Asian descent.

Liam Watson, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said the organization does not have a comment at this time, but it will be present at the board meeting Tuesday.