Virginia Asks Appeals Court to Overturn Primary Ballot Ruling

Virginia officials asked a federal appeals court to overturn a judge’s order blocking them from mailing absentee ballots or printing regular ones for the state’s Republican primary pending a Jan. 13 hearing.

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli today filed an emergency request with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, arguing that ballots for the March 6 primary need to go to the printer immediately in order to meet legal deadlines to provide ballots to absentee and overseas voters.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. in Richmond yesterday ordered the process halted while he considers a suit by Texas Governor Rick Perry and other Republican presidential candidates who were disqualified from the primary because they didn’t submit 10,000 signatures from qualified Virginia voters.

“Should there be any delay in the printing of ballots, or a reprinting, it will be to the detriment of military and overseas voters,” Cuccinelli said in the appellate filing, adding that sending two ballots to voters would create confusion and result in a “significant” cost to Virginia.

Perry last month sought a temporary order to halt state officials from printing the ballots, or to require them to include his name. In a lawsuit filed Dec. 27 in federal court in Richmond, Perry claimed the state’s requirement that people who circulate petitions be eligible or registered to vote in Virginia violates his constitutional rights.

Santorum, Gingrich

Last week, Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman won permission to join Perry’s challenge.

They argued that Virginia’s rules governing petition circulators violate “freedoms of speech and association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments” of the U.S. Constitution.

Perry and the other candidates must respond to Virginia’s appeal by tomorrow morning, according to a directive from the deputy clerk of the appeals court.

In yesterday’s order, Gibney said he will rule on Perry’s request for a preliminary injunction the same day as the Jan. 13 hearing.

“This is a positive development for the presidential candidates and the citizens of Virginia,” Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for the Perry campaign, said of yesterday’s order. He didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Virginia’s appeal.

Cuccinelli said Perry was disqualified from the March vote because he failed to collect the 10,000 signatures required by state rules.

‘Lacks Standing’

Perry “lacks standing to assert an injury arising from the inability to circulate his own petitions because there is no averment that he stood ready, willing and able to circulate his own petitions and there is no basis for concluding that he would have collected a sufficient number of valid signatures,” the state said in its filing.

Former 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 last month.

The case is Perry v. Judd, 3:11-cv-00856, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond). The appeal is Perry v. Judd, 12-1042, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Richmond).