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Virginia: If it's wrong to exclude Gingrich and Perry, can they get on ballot?

Newt Gingrich is not amused at being left off the Virginia primary ballot, Rick Perry is suing, and some in the state are sympathetic. So what went wrong?  And can it be undone? 

By Staff writer / December 28, 2011

Members of the Virginia State Board of Elections pick the paper indicating the order of names to appear on the ballot for the March 6, Republican Presidential primary ballot in Virginia. Only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are on the ballot, but some are saying it was wrong to exclude Gingrich and Perry.

Mark Gormus/Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP

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Mitt Romney is having fun with Newt Gingrich’s inability to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, likening him to Lucille Ball in the famous episode of “I Love Lucy” where she can’t keep up with a conveyor belt of chocolates.

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“You’ve got to get it organized,” Mr. Romney chided Tuesday in New Hampshire.

But to Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker and a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, the ballot failure is no laughing matter.

He also has influential Virginians who agree that it was wrong to exclude Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry from the March 6 Virginia primary. Each had submitted more than the required 10,000 signatures, but on Dec. 24, state election officials deemed that they did not have enough valid signatures to qualify.

Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are the only two candidates to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot. Other major contenders, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, did not attempt to collect the necessary signatures.

On Wednesday, two former state party chairmen – a Republican and a Democrat – held a press conference in Richmond to call for emergency legislation that would establish a new standard for participation in a presidential primary.

The majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, Kirk Cox (R), has stated that there’s not enough time to pass legislation. But Bill Pascoe, executive vice president of the conservative group Citizens for the Republic, disagrees.

“Once the legislative and executive branch leaders realize how screwed up the system is, I think a relatively simple legislative fix will present itself to them, and they’ll be able to move a bill on the first day of the legislature, on Jan. 11,” says Mr. Pascoe in an interview.

“They could say if the FEC [Federal Election Commission] qualifies you for matching funds, you qualify for the Virginia ballot,” Pascoe suggests.

Pascoe is working with the two former Virginia party chairs – Democrat Paul Goldman and Republican Pat McSweeney – in urging the state legislature to act. He says they’re not backing a particular candidate, rather working on behalf of the right of Virginians to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice.

Gingrich, meanwhile, is now blaming not only the system, but fraud as well for his exclusion from the Virginia ballot.

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