It may seem unusual to have a write-in campaign for "Ham Sandwich" for Commonwealth Attorney, but Virginia law intentionally protects the right of a voter to choose the candidate of their choice, and campaign laws are designed to provide the greatest degree of latitude for political free speech and choice while ensuring that the public has a high degree of visibility regarding who is financing campaigns and how campaign funds are used. Write-in campaigns are the last bastion of true democracy in America, and are afforded a great degree of deference.
Here are some of the common questions asked about the write-in campaign for Ham Sandwich for voters who rightly are concerned that all campaigns in Virginia are conducted in a legal manner.
Am I restricted in any way about who I can write-in on a ballot?
No. Voters are permitted to write-in any candidate of their choice if their choice does not appear on the ballot. Virginia Code § 24.2-644 says that "it shall be lawful for any voter to vote for any person other than the listed candidates for the office" by writing or hand printing the person's name on the official ballot."
How can Ham Sandwich have a campaign?
Ham can't really have a campaign. In order for a campaign committee to be formed, which would have a bank account and be able to raise funds, a statement of organization is required which must bear the signature of the candidate. Having a mustard stain appear on this signature line might sound like fun, but it wouldn't be strictly legal. This means that there is no official campaign for Ham Sandwich, as there isn't a registered campaign committee.
It's not unusual for another entity to conduct a campaign on behalf of an unofficial candidate, and typically this would be done by a Political Action Committee, or PAC. A PAC would register with the State Board of Elections, and file quarterly campaign finance disclosures without having to obtain any signature from the candidate it would be supporting. Contributions to the PAC and "independent expenditures" on behalf of Ham Sandwich would be perfectly legal, as long as the activity was accurately reported.
What if Ham Sandwich wins?
First, we would celebrate. A lot.
Next, Ham would probably choose not to take the oath of office, which would require a special election to be held to fill the office with someone who would, or at least is capable of taking the oath. There would be no incumbent officeholder, and likely there would be a pretty broad range of candidates for voters to choose from, rather than a single candidate for this office.
If Paul Ebert loses to Ham Sandwich, would he run in a special election?
It's possible. Nothing would prevent him from doing so, but would you run if you'd just been defeated in an election by a sandwich?
Am I going to get in trouble for being a part of this?
Being involved in the campaign of your choice, no matter how unusual your preferred candidate may be, is protected political free speech under the Constitution of the United States.
How can I help?
Right now, just talk to your friends and neighbors about this. And stay tuned for updates on how you can contribute your time, talents, and maybe even some money to this exciting campaign.