A federal judge in Richmond said today that he wouldn’t stop the printing before the next hearing in the case, scheduled for Jan. 13. He didn’t rule on the merits of Perry’s challenge.
Perry, a Republican, was informed this month by state party officials that his campaign failed to collect enough signatures to get him on the ballot for the March 6 primary, including 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts.
Perry filed an emergency motion yesterday seeking a temporary restraining order halting printing of the ballots or requiring his name be placed on them. 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.
“This is probably a case that should have been filed beforehand, not when things went sour,” U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. said at a hearing in Richmond. He said that regardless of the merits of Perry’s claims, his campaign failed to gather the 10,000 signatures required by state rules.
“How can I put Mr. Perry on the ballot in light of the requirement?” Gibney asked Joseph M. Nixon, an attorney representing the Texas governor.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas are the only Republicans to make it onto the ballot for Virginia’s primary on so-called Super Tuesday, the Republican Party of Virginia said this month.
“Our goal is to protect the constitutional rights of citizens and candidates to proper ballot access in Virginia,” Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for the Perry campaign, said in an e- mail following the hearing. “We are pleased the court is scheduling a quick trial date for this important constitutional ballot access issue.”
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in an e-mail to supporters this week that Virginia should relax ballot requirements for candidates. He said aides to Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman also running for president, informed him that Virginia’s ballot restrictions were the third-toughest in the country.
E. Duncan Getchell Jr., Virginia solicitor general, said during the hearing that primary ballots must be sent to the printer by Jan. 9 for state election officials to have sufficient time to send them to absentee and overseas voters.
Gibney said that if Perry prevails in the case, state election officials may have to print the ballots a second time.
The judge also questioned the comments by Cuccinelli, asking whether the Virginia attorney general has a conflict in the case. The attorney general’s office is defending the State Board of Elections in the lawsuit.
Getchell said he didn’t consider Cuccinelli’s comments a problem.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also failed to get the required signatures from registered voters. Gingrich said yesterday that someone hired to collect signatures provided false ones.
Gibney set a deadline of Jan. 6 for the other Republican presidential candidates to intervene in the case. Arguments on Perry’s request for a preliminary injuction are scheduled for Jan. 13 at 10 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Richmond.
The case is Perry v. Judd, 3:11-cv-00856, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).
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