Story by Chris Graham
Rockingham County Republicans have been crying foul over how the local board of elections has decided to inform voters of the death of Commissioner of the Revenue Richard Connellee.
They might have good reason to that end.
“It’s going to be interesting – because the way the board of elections has listed this to say that the person is dead, that brings an interesting scenario where there will be some people who simply will not vote. There will be undervoting where people will simply not cast ballots. They’re not going to vote for the Democrat, but they find something offensive about voting for a dead person. And therefore that opens the window a little bit for the Democrats,” James Madison University political-science professor Bob Roberts said.
Connellee’s name will still be on the ballot alongside that of Democratic nominee Esther Nizer – but also on the ballot will be a notice to voters advising them that Connellee “is no longer a candidate for Commissioner of Revenue in Rockingham County.”
GOP leaders think this will cause some voters to either not vote for either candidate or to vote for Nizer thinking that she is basically running unopposed.
In actuality, were Connellee to win the race, the office would be declared vacant, and a special election would have to be held at a later date to determine a new revenue commissioner.
“In these kinds of circumstances, you really can’t tell what’s going to happen,” Bridgewater College political-science professor David McQuilkin said in an interview for last week’s “Augusta Free Press Show.”
“In recent weeks, clearly, as you have pointed out, very accurately, the Republican leadership now and the party leadership has made a concerted effort to try to get the party faithful at least to vote for Connellee because that as you indicated would provoke a special election. Which, if that were the case, I think the Republicans would carry the office. Now, the question is, are enough people aware that he has died – and therefore might switch their vote as a result? My suspicion is that many people will not even be aware of it. And it would not surprise me as a result that Connellee could win the election – and force therefore a special election,” McQuilkin said.
Roberts agrees with McQuilkin in that assessment.
“It’s a heavily Republican area – and the Republicans have instructed their people to vote for him. And then you have a special election that would obviously go to a Republican in the county. So the only scenario that theoretically could happen is some people will read that and don’t believe they can vote, and that will make it a little closer,” Roberts said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.