(The following was originally published in the Richmond Times Dispatch.)
When he ran for governor last year, Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis found himself caught in the classic third-party Catch-22: Debate organizers would not let him participate, and some media would not give him coverage, until he achieved the widespread support that he could get only by participating in debates and receiving media coverage.
Debate organizers and news outlets are private organizations. They can do what they want, whether other people like it or not. The commonwealth of Virginia, however, is a horse of a different color.
As a candidate in this year’s Senate race, Sarvis has filed suit over the state’s rules governing ballot placement. State law reserves the first and second places on the ballot to the Republican and Democratic parties. (The top spot is determined by a drawing.) Since higher spots on the ballot are more desirable, this puts all other parties at an officially sanctioned disadvantage.