Prison inmate wins 41% against President Obama in West Virginia primary

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Federal prison inmate Keith Russell Judd, of Texas, won 72,459 votes (40.6 percent) in Tuesday's West Virginia Democratic presidential primary, behind President Barack Obama, who finished with 105,833 (59.4 percent).

Judd qualified to appear on the West Virginia ballot after completing a notarized certification of announcement and paying the required $2,500 filing fee. Although surpassing 15 percent of the vote qualifies him for a Democratic National Convention delegate, according to Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Scarbro, Judd did not specify a delegate slate and will likely not be awarded a delegate.

West Virginia Democratic primary by county. President Obama won the counties in black while Keith Judd won the counties in red.
Image: William S. Saturn.

Judd has run several unsuccessful write-in campaigns for mayor of Albuquerque and governor of New Mexico, and appeared on the 2008 Idaho Democratic primary ballot, winning 734 votes. He was sentenced to 210 months of prison in 1999 after being found guilty of "mailing a threatening communication with intent to extort money or something of value" at the University of New Mexico. He is currently serving his term at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution.

Though federal law prohibits felons from voting in elections, they are still eligible to run for office. Judd is not the first prisoner to run for president. In 1920, Eugene V. Debs of the Socialist Party of America ran a presidential campaign from prison after being prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917. He won nearly a million votes.

According to Democratic consultant Mike Plante, "most of the people who were casting a vote for Keith Judd, it was not a vote for him, it was a vote expressing dissatisfaction with the president." One West Virginia voter expressed this sentiment, telling the Associated Press that he "voted against Obama" because "I don't like him. He didn't carry the state before and I'm not going to let him carry it again." In 2008, Obama finished with only 25.77 percent of the West Virginia primary vote, losing to Hillary Clinton.

Though Obama has faced some challenges in the Democratic primaries, losing 18 percent to anti-abortion activist Randall Terry in Oklahoma, losing nearly 12 percent to attorney John Wolfe, Jr. in Louisiana, and having 18 and 21 percent of Democrats in Alabama and North Carolina vote "uncommitted", he has already won enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination.