Texas Governor Rick Perry asked a U.S. appeals court to place his name on the ballot for the Virginia Republican presidential primary or to halt the printing of ballots pending his appeal.
Perry filed his emergency request yesterday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. Newt Gingrich joined him in an appeal filed Jan. 14 with the same court. The presidential hopefuls 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.
On Jan. 13, U.S. District Judge John Gibney in Richmond ruled that Perry, Gingrich and two other Republican presidential candidates waited too long to challenge the eligibility requirements for Virginia’s primary ballot. The candidates say the rule violates their rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“The court abused its discretion in determining movant rested on his rights for such a period of time to allow the commonwealth to trample on movant’s First Amendment rights,” Perry said in a filing yesterday.
Perry’s lawsuit, filed Dec. 27, sought a temporary order to halt Virginia officials from printing the ballots, or to require them to include his name on them.
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 today and endorsed frontrunner Mitt Romney. He was running last in an average of three statewide polls in South Carolina, which will hold its primary on Jan. 21.
“This appeal seeks higher court action to protect the rights of presidential candidates and Virginia voters so those voters have a full access to the Republican candidates of their choice,” said Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for the Perry campaign, in an e-mail yesterday. R.C. Hammond, a spokesman for the Gingrich campaign, didn’t respond to an e-mail yesterday seeking comment on the appeal.
In its response, the office of Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli asked the appeals court to reject Perry’s request, saying the governor’s challenge came too late and he didn’t have enough signatures to begin with.
“Governor Perry is not being denied a place on the ballot because of the circulator residency/voter eligibility requirement,” according to the filing. “He is being denied a place on the ballot because he did not meet the constitutionally sound requirement of submitting 10,000 valid signatures by the constitutionally valid deadline.”
Virginia’s rule requiring petition circulators to be eligible voters is probably unconstitutional, Gibney said during a hearing where he issued his ruling. Still, he told the candidates’ lawyers that they waited almost six months from the day signatures could be collected to file a lawsuit, a delay he called “unreasonable.”
Adding the names to the March 6 ballot now would jeopardize the state’s primary process, the judge said.
In yesterday’s filing, Perry argued he sued on the same day the names of the candidates who qualified for Virginia’s primary were scheduled to be certified by the state.
Perry “cannot be charged with a lack of diligence prior to submitting his petition signatures, as he reasonably expected to be able to acquire the number required” under Virginia law, according to the filing.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, 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.
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).