Texas Governor Rick Perry is seeking a court order to stop Virginia election officials from printing or distributing primary ballots after his presidential campaign was told his name wouldn’t appear on them.
Perry, a Republican, filed an emergency motion yesterday seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent distribution of the ballots without his name. In a lawsuit filed Dec. 27 in federal court in Richmond, Perry claimed that the state’s requirement that petition circulators be eligible or registered qualified voters in Virginia violates his constitutional rights.
“Virginia ballot access rules are among the most onerous and are particularly problematic in a multicandidate election,” Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for Perry, said in a statement yesterday. “We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot.”
The Republican Party of Virginia said Dec. 24 that Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich failed to get the required signatures from 10,000 registered voters, including 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Two other Republicans, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, qualified for the primary scheduled for so-called Super Tuesday on March 6.
U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. set a hearing on the motion for today at 10 a.m. in Richmond.
Justin Riemer, a spokesman for the Virginia State Board of Elections, a defendant in the lawsuit, declined to comment yesterday on Perry’s complaint.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, said on his blog this week that he advocates loosening the state’s ballot requirements so that candidates would need only 100 signatures from each of the state’s congressional districts.
Both Romney and Paul could rely on supporter networks built up during their 2008 presidential runs, which shows that the system favors candidates with well-entrenched campaigns, Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said yesterday in a phone interview.
In a memorandum filed yesterday, lawyers representing Perry said a preliminary injunction was needed because the deadline to print ballots in Virginia is in the next two to three weeks.
“In the absence of a preliminary injunction, plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm,” according to the filing.
Tobias said Virginia’s restrictions are well known. The failure of some candidates to make the ballot reflects an inability to organize across the state, he said.
“They have waited until the 11th hour,” Tobias said of the efforts by Perry and Gingrich. “They can call it an emergency, but it’s of their own creation.”
In an Algona, Iowa, campaign stop yesterday, Gingrich said he didn’t make it on the Virginia ballot because of “fraud,” saying someone hired to collect signatures provided false ones, CNN reported.
Gingrich said he hasn’t yet looked at Perry’s legal challenge to Virginia’s ballot requirements.
“I think it’s interesting for everybody who thought it was my problem that you now have Governor Perry also pointing out that Virginia is a very difficult ballot to get on,” Gingrich told reporters in Mason City.
He added that he’d like to be on the ballot or have the state’s legislature change the law to allow for write-in candidates.
“Every poll in Virginia shows me beating Romney in Virginia, so I’d love to be able to at least have a write-in campaign,” Gingrich said.
The case is Perry v. Judd, 3:11-cv-00856, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).
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