The following is the text of remarks by Denise Giardina, Independent candidate for governor, in response to the efforts of the Democratic Party to limit access to the ballot and the vote in West Virginia.
CHARLESTON, WV -- When I was a child in school, I learned about the Soviet Union. If you wanted to be a public official there, you had to join one party, the Communist Party.
I have been trying to get on the ballot in West Virginia as an independent candidate. My candidacy, if it garners more than 1% of the vote, would establish a new party in the state, the Mountain Party. In an effort to clarify West Virginia's flawed and contradictory ballot access law, I went to court. The state Democratic Executive Committee intervened in my suit in an attempt to keep the restrictions on ballot access and voting in West Virginia. Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Herman Canady (Dem.) issued a ruling that did little to clarify the law and repeated the warning that people who sign petitions for minor parties give up their right to vote in primary elections, even though there is no penalty in law for such a vote.
In the Charleston Gazette, Steve White, the Democratic Party Co-Chair, said he and other party leaders hope those who have been involved in my campaign will consider working within the party instead of outside it, and that I will also join the party.
It does not seem to sink in to Mr. White and other Democratic Party leaders that they are not the only party in West Virginia, that not everyone is or wants to be a Democrat, that it is not healthy for everyone to work within the same party, and that all West Virginians of age should have a right to seek elective office with the affiliation they deem appropriate. Nor does it seem to dawn on them that the Democratic leadership does not anoint the next governor as though he were to be crowned king.
But there is a larger issue here. According to Mr. White, the Democratic Party intervened in the Mountain Party's ballot access suit because it wanted to protect the rights of Democratic voters who have been asked to sign my petition.
My grandparents came to this country from Italy in search of freedom. My father and mother served in the U.S. Army in World War II. Like the million of others who have served, they were protecting the freedoms Americans hold dear. It is our veterans, our outspoken citizens, and our constitution which protect our rights.
What the Democratic Party leadership has done in fact is to trample on not only my rights and the rights of my supporters, but also the rights of their fellow Democrats, of Republicans, of Independents, of Libertarians, and all other citizens of this state. They have intimidated potential petition signers, threatened potential voters, and harmed the cause of democracy in West Virginia.
The Mountain Party has already announced its intention to appeal Judge Canady's ruling. But that is not why I'm here today. I'm here because I am an American citizen.
The Democratic Party leaders say I cannot sign a petition and vote in the May 2000 primary election. I believe I have a God-given constitutionally guaranteed right to petition my government. I have a God-given constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote and no one can deny me those rights.
Mr. White urges me to work within the Democratic Party. Well Steve, be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. I will temporarily work within the Democratic Party. I am changing my registration from Independent to Democrat.
I have signed a petition asking that my name be placed on the November ballot as the Mountain Party candidate for governor.
On May 9, I will go to the polls and I will vote in the Democratic primary for every office except governor.
Mr. Maroney, and Mr. White, and that Democratic faction you represent -- no one tells me I can't vote. I dare you to arrest me for voting. Show up with the Charleston police or whoever's army you want to bring along, and then explain to the people of West Virginia and the United States that you have arrested a woman because she dared to vote; especially since there is no penalty for doing so.
I dare you to claim I am voting twice. This petition is just what it says, a petition. It is for one office only. It is not a secret ballot or any kind of ballot. It does not require the presence of poll workers to validate a signature. It requires no political litmus test except that the signer be a free citizen of the U.S. and a registered voter in West Virginia.
And I dare you to try and throw out my vote. To do so, a Party official must show up in person when I'm voting and challenge my vote. I plan to vote at noon on May 9 on the West Side of Charleston at either Glenwood School on Grant Street or Jarrett Terrace on Central Ave., whichever is the designated voting site. I dare the Democratic co-chairs to show up personally for the challenge, face-to-face.
If you do, you can be sure you will end up in court and you will open a can of technicality worms that will blow open the ballot access process in this state once and for all. Your position is unenforceable, and you know it.
I would also like to address the fear that many voters understandably feel because of the threats from Democratic leaders. Some are afraid that poll workers of both parties will have lists available and will then strike people from the rolls as they attempt to vote. This will not happen. The Republican Party has no interest in such punitive actions. And even if the Democrats wanted to do this, such an action would be unmanageable and of questionable legality.
In addition, my campaign is not required to turn in its petitions until 4:00 p.m. on May 9, the day of the primary election. The signatures on these petitions are not a matter of public record available to Democratic Party officials or anyone else. And a challenge after the election properis not valid.
What we have here is an unenforceable law with no penalties. It is a sham law designed to discourage democracy in West Virginia, and Mr. White and Mr. Maroney are using it as a pretext to infringe on the rights of all West Virginians. Their actions are an insult to the their own party's civil rights legacy, are a blatant attempt to protect the prospects of a single faction of their party, and have the effect of disenfranchising members of their own party. In this situation I believe the appropriate action would be for these gentlemen to resign their posts as co-chairmen of the Democratic Party.
I want to ask the citizens of this state from all political persuasions to do as our forefathers and mothers have done, to petition the government freely and without fear. And more importantly, I want to ask you to do as our forefathers and mothers have done -- from those who affirmed that all people, not just those who owned property, could vote -- to those who affirmed that all people, not just men, could vote -- to those who affirmed that all people, not just white people, could vote.
Finally, I want to challenge those who are not registered or who do not vote. I hope you now understand how precious this right is, and that it should not be taken for granted. Please, register and vote, because that is a right no one can take from you.
Those who want to sign petitions to place Denise Giardina on the ballot for governor may call 304-937-3022 (the Mountain Party) or 304-344-2362, or write to P. O. Box 6344, Charleston, WV 25362, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out our website at www.deniseforgov.org.