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Oprison's Ballot Validity Questioned

Del. Joe May’s campaign charges opponent's campaign manager was ineligible to collect signatures.

Andrew Tyrrell, a 21-year-old Patrick Henry College freshman, is at the center of a debate over the validity of Chris Oprison's run for delegate in the 33rd District.

Tyrrell is Oprison's campaign manager. Oprison, a Republican attorney, is making his first run for office against Del. Joe T. May, a 12-year Republican incumbent.

The May campaign filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections April 15 charging three things: first, that Tyrrell was not an eligible voter in the 33rd District and therefore not qualified to collect signatures to get Oprison's name on the ballot; second, that other unqualified members of Oprison's campaign were also collecting signatures; and third, that the Oprison campaign turned its signatures in before they could be accepted, which was noon on March 29.

Oprison has refuted all three charges. Last week, Tyrrell (pronounced Carroll) attempted to register to vote in the 33rd District only to get an evening phone call from the Registrar that there were questions about his eligibility.

HIS ELIGIBILITY is still up in the air as of press time. Tyrrell has a driver's license from his home state of Florida, but said he intends to stay and vote and live in Virginia. To become a registered voter in a district, a person must be a resident and a U.S. citizen.

"I was all of this, so I think I'm eligible," Tyrrell said.

Patrick Henry College, Tyrrell's school, is a conservative Christian college located in Purcellville.

"I'm surprised in the fact that it seems ridiculous for a 12-year incumbent to attack the kid in college," Tyrrell said.

"Basically, they're trying to force the hand of the Loudoun Board of Elections ... in an attempt to keep me off the ballot," Oprison said.

While Oprison has called the charges "baseless," May's campaign manager, Dave Juday, argues for their merit.

"One of the exclusions for eligibility [to collect signatures] is if you are already registered in another state," Juday said. "As of the day he circulated that [petition], he was registered in another state."

He added, "Del. May feels strongly that before you seek to represent and protect the laws of the state, you should demonstrate some competence in following the laws of the state."

OPRISON said that he and Tyrrell witnessed the signing of all the petitions.

"Andrew and I were the only ones that witnessed and were qualified," he said.

As for May's last charge that the petitions were turned in before noon on March 29, Oprison denies that, too.

"My guy is absolutely sure that we filed at 12:01," he said.

Juday said he had three signed affidavits from witnesses who saw Oprison's petitions get turned in before noon.

In fact, the May campaign itself turned in its petitions before noon before withdrawing them to resubmit after noon.

"We caught our mistake," Juday said.

Candidates must gather at least 150 signatures from voters in their districts in order to get on the ballot.

It's unlikely that a decision on the validity of Oprison's petitions will be made before the June 14 primary. The penalty for falsely signing a petition is a maximum fine of $2,500 or confinement up to 10 years — meaning Oprison probably won't get kicked off the ballot on this alone even if Tyrrell is determined to be ineligible.

The ruling will most likely be made by the 10th Congressional District Republican Committee, although the Republican Party of Virginia Plan is vague on the topic.