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?
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“We hired somebody who turned in false signatures,” Gingrich said at a campaign stop Wednesday in Algona, Iowa, according to CNN. “We turned in 11,100 – we needed 10,000 – 1,500 of them were by one guy who frankly committed fraud.”Skip to next paragraph
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Governor Perry is trying a different tack. On Tuesday he filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the Virginia law regarding ballot access. Not only does the law require the gathering of 10,000 signatures, it also requires that at least 400 come from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts. And it requires that signature-gatherers be residents of Virginia. The legal complaint focuses on the ban on out-of-state workers.
“We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support,” said Ray Sullivan, the Perry campaign’s communications director, in a statement.
One legal scholar on election law sees the lawsuit as a long shot, both legally and politically.
“The initial hurdle is one of laches, the failure to bring suit before filing time,” writes Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, on his blog. “This is an emergency of Perry’s (and Gingrich’s) own making. Surely they knew of the requirement earlier.”
Another expert on ballot access explains why it was so difficult to make the 2012 Virginia primary ballot, when in the past many more Republican candidates qualified: This time, they’re checking the signatures.
“The only reason the Virginia Republican Party checked the signatures for validity for the current primary is that in October 2011, an independent candidate for the legislature, Michael Osborne, sued the Virginia Republican Party because it did not check petitions for its own members, when they submitted primary petitions,” according to an article on Ballot Access News, edited by Richard Winger.
“The effect of the lawsuit was to persuade the Republican Party to start checking petitions,” the article states. “If the Republican Party had not changed that policy, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry would be on the 2012 ballot.”
The article also points out that the Democratic Party of Virginia opposes the strict law on primary ballot access, and helps the candidates collect signatures.
These differing standards, says Citizens for the Republic executive Pascoe, of past vs. present and Republican vs. Democrat are reason enough for the legislature to act quickly and put in place a more inclusive system in time for the March 6 primary.
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