A Richmond, Virginia, judge has tossed every ballot petition sheet that four campaign staffers of Rep. Scott Taylor submitted for independent candidate Shaun Brown to get her on the ballot this November in Virginia’s 2nd District.
Richmond Circuit Court Judge Gregory L. Rupe found that the sheets turned in by Taylor’s staffers were “rife with errors, inconsistencies, and forgeries” and “must be excluded” from the signature total accrued on Brown’s behalf. He had already ordered Wednesday the removal of her name from the ballot.
Taylor was subpoenaed by the court earlier this week, but the judge ruled he did not have to testify, citing an exemption for members of Congress who are in session.
Candidates in Virginia must collect at least 1,000 signatures to appear on a congressional general election ballot.
The judge also tossed all 1,927 signatures on the petition sheets Brown submitted on her own behalf after finding that none of them listed her correct address.
Brown can appeal the decision. By press time, she had not announced any intention to do so.
Rupe found that four of Taylor’s campaign staffers at the time — Lauren Creekmore, Heather Guillot, Roberta Marciano, and Robert Catron — filed petition sheets containing “blatant forgeries … such as the signatures of deceased persons” and with “the intent to defraud the Commonwealth and its election officials.”
Separately, a special prosecutor is investigating the alleged forgeries by Taylor’s campaign staffers.
The Democratic Party of Virginia, which filed the lawsuit to boot Brown from the ballot in August, accused Taylor of helping Brown, his 2016 Democratic opponent, in a backdoor maneuver to split the Democratic vote between Brown and the party’s nominee this year, Elaine Luria.
“A Judge has found that Scott Taylor’s staff defrauded the Commonwealth of Virginia and deceived the constituents Taylor claims to represent. The Congressman’s lies and dodges will not get him out of this mess he himself created,” Virginia Democratic Party spokesman Jake Rubenstein said in a statement.
Taylor, who has said he knew his staff had “volunteered” to collect signatures to get Brown’s name on the ballot after the Democratic Party tried to “disenfranchise her,” has denied the accusation that he was trying to siphon votes away from Luria. He has also denied that he directed his staffers to commit forgeries on Brown’s petition sheets or that he knew about the alleged signature fraud.
Though Taylor defeated Brown by 23 points to win a first term, the race against Luria this year is projected to be closer.
Brown will face trial in October in an unrelated case where she is accused of defrauding the federal government through a children’s lunch program.
A spokesman for Taylor’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.
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