A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, today rejected Perry’s request to block the state from printing ballots and sending out absentee ballots for the March 6 primary while his appeal seeking to be included on the ballots was pending.
Perry “had every opportunity to challenge the various Virginia ballot requirements at a time when the challenge would not have created the disruption that this last-minute lawsuit has,” judges J. Harvie Wilkinson III, G. Steven Agee and Albert Diaz ruled. His “request contravenes repeated Supreme Court admonitions that federal judicial bodies not upend the orderly progression of state electoral processes at the eleventh hour.”
Newt Gingrich, who also filed an appeal with the same court, sent a letter to the court yesterday saying he agreed with Perry’s request for an injunction.
The candidates are challenging a Virginia law requiring that people gathering signatures for a candidate’s petition to appear on the ballot be eligible to vote in the state.
U.S. District Judge John Gibney in Richmond ruled Jan. 13 that Perry, Gingrich and two other Republican presidential candidates waited too long to challenge the eligibility requirements. The candidates say the rule violates their rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“An orderly ballot access process is important, but of little significance if viable candidates are unconstitutionally kept off the ballot,” Joseph Nixon, a lawyer for Perry, said in an e-mailed statement.
He said Perry is weighing options for an appeal.
“We are disappointed with the ruling, naturally, and are in the process of studying it to determine what our options will be,” Stefan Passantino, a lawyer for Gingrich, said by e-mail.
He added that he was “disappointed that the Court of Appeals would find no reason to question the lower court’s finding that Virginia’s statute ‘is highly unlikely to withstand First Amendment challenge” and still deny Perry and Gingrich’s, bid to delay the process.
State Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli said by e-mail he was “pleased with the Fourth Circuit ruling and that Virginia’s orderly election process will be able to move forward.”
Gibney denied a challenge by Perry, Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, who argued Virginia’s primary rules requiring those seeking to have their names placed on the ballot submit 10,000 signatures from valid Virginia voters are improper and unconstitutional. Huntsman dropped out of the race yesterday and endorsed front-runner Mitt Romney.
Cuccinelli argued in court papers last week that materials for the primary needed to go to the printer immediately to meet legal deadlines for getting ballots to absentee and overseas voters.
The district court case is Perry v. Judd, 3:11-cv-00856, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond). The appeal is Perry v. Judd, 12-1067, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Richmond).
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