“Sore Loser” Law Keeps Blankenship off West Virginia Ballot

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“Sore Loser” Law Keeps Blankenship off West Virginia Ballot


Coal magnate Don Blankenship’s words and actions focused national attention on West Virginia during his race for U.S. senator. Thanks to a state law, however, he will not be able to take his unique style into the general election. That has led some to call for changing how the state treats losing primary candidates who want to run for general election.


Blankenship may have lost the Republican primary for U.S. senator, but he still wants to run for office. The Constitution Party wants to give him their nomination. The only thing standing in their way is West Virginia’s “sore loser” law that prohibits candidates who have lost in a primary election from running an independent or third-party candidacy in the general election.


Forty-five other states have similar laws. These ensure that candidates can choose only one path to be on the general election ballot – a major-party nomination or an independent or third-party candidacy. They cannot try their luck in the Republican or Democratic primary and then run on a smaller party ticket in the general election.


Blankenship, who finished third in the state’s Republican primary, is aware that the state law blocks his path to a Constitution Party nomination. He has said he would challenge the law in court, seeking to invalidate it so he can challenge the two major-party nominees in November.


Supporters of “sore loser” laws say they are necessary to prevent losing candidates from circumventing the primary process to get on the ballot. They contend this could lead to numerous losing candidates cluttering up the ballot, confusing voters. Opponents of these laws say that voters should have the ultimate choice as to whom they elect, regardless of whether someone lost a major party’s nomination. They also point out that primary voters tend to reflect the party’s base and may choose more extreme nominees, so sore loser laws may keep more moderate candidates off the ballot.


Do you think that states should bar candidates who lost their party’s primaries from running in the general election as third-party or independent candidates?


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