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Judge denies Rick Perry challenge of Virginia ballot laws

January 13, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Rick Perry greets customers at Hilton Head Diner as he makes his entrance during a campaign appearance on the South Carolina island.
Rick Perry greets customers at Hilton Head Diner as he makes his entrance… (Jay Karr / Island Packet )

A Virginia judge has rejected an attempt by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican presidential hopefuls to challenge the constitutionality of the state's rules governing ballot access, citing the timeliness of the case.

In a suit filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia last month, Perry's camp had argued that state rules "unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot."

At issue is state law that requires a candidate to get 10,000 petition signatures statewide, including a certain number in each of the state's congressional districts. Those signatures can be gathered only by Virginia residents.

Perry's challenge cited legal precedent for striking down requirements for "unrealistic numbers of signatures," and a prohibition on out-of-state petition circulators.

There was sympathy for Perry's case from U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr., who said the candidate would have probably prevailed on challenging the constitutionality of a residency requirement for petition seekers.

But given the narrow time frame before the March 6 primary, it was likely that he could not "gather the requisite signatures to get on the ballot" in time.

"To place the plaintiffs on the ballot would deprive Virginia of its rights not only to conduct the primary in an orderly way but also to insist that a candidate show broad support," Gibney writes.

Only two candidates -- Mitt Romney and Ron Paul -- met all of the requirements to land on the primary ballot.

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