Virginia’s Cuccinelli Opposes Changes to March Primary Rules

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli opposes changing election rules to allow all Republican candidates on the ballot for the state’s March presidential primary, according to an e-mailed statement.

His announcement follows a letter yesterday by Republican presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum saying they will join Texas Governor Rick Perry in his lawsuit seeking to be placed on the March 6 primary ballot.

Only former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas met Virginia’s petition requirements to earn a place on the ballot. The state’s Republican Party said Dec. 24 that Perry and Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker, failed to get proper signatures from 10,000 registered voters as required.

In a joint letter to Virginia’s Board of Elections and Republican Party, lawyers for Bachmann, Gingrich, Huntsman and Santorum said they will file a motion to intervene in Perry’s legal challenge in Richmond federal court. On Dec. 29, a U.S. judge declined to stop the printing of ballots before the next hearing in Perry’s case, scheduled for Jan. 13. He didn’t rule on the merits of Perry’s challenge.

“This should not be a gauntlet to figure out how you can make it virtually impossible to run for president,” Gingrich said yesterday at a campaign stop in Atlantic, Iowa. “This ought to be a system that enables the voters to decide who they would like to have run for president.”

Election Board

The four Republicans urged the election board either to take no action until Jan. 13 or to add them to the ballot, ending the legal challenge “and avoiding unnecessary costs and expenses to the state and the parties.”

The letter was signed by J. Christian Adams, counsel to Bachmann; Stefan C. Passantino, counsel to Gingrich; Craig Engle, counsel to Huntsman; and Cleta Mitchell, counsel to Santorum. Cuccinelli said yesterday he would seek to intervene in the Perry lawsuit and propose legislation that would allow most Republican presidential candidates to be named on his state’s primary ballot. Today, he announced he had changed his mind.

Different Scenarios

“Virginia needs to change its ballot access requirements for our statewide elections. However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democratic leaders to attempt to make changes in time for the 2012 Presidential election, my concern grows that we cannot find a way to make such changes fair to the Romney and Paul campaigns that qualified even with Virginia’s burdensome system,” Cuccinelli said in the statement. “A further critical factor that I must consider is that changing the rules midstream is inconsistent with respecting and preserving the rule of law.”

In a separate state court lawsuit, a Virginia lawyer last month sued the Board of Elections and Republican Party to get Gingrich’s name on the ballot. In Iowa yesterday, Gingrich said he hopes the state legislature finds a solution to put everyone on the ballot.

“The challenge in Virginia isn’t about the candidates, it’s about the voters,” he said.

The Perry case is Perry v. Judd, 11-00856, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond); The Gingrich case is Moseley v. Virginia State Board of Elections, Circuit Court of Richmond County.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Atlantic, Iowa, at thiggins21@bloomberg.net and; Mike Millard at mmillard2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net and; Greg Chang at gchang1@bloomberg.net.

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