Gingrich, Perry, Santorum Lose Ballot Fight

     (CN) – Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum will not be listed on the ballot for the Virginia Republican primary, a federal judge ruled, noting that the candidates who failed to muster the required number of petition signatures “played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair.”



     After Perry, the governor of Texas, failed to obtain enough signatures to vie for the Republican ticket in Virginia on Super Tuesday, which falls on March 6 this year, he filed suit against the state’s Republican Party chairman, Pat Mullins. The complaint, which also names three members of the Virginia State Board of Elections, claims that the state’s rules violate the First and 14th Amendments.
     Finding themselves in a similar state of affairs, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Rick Santorum intervened in Perry’s lawsuit earlier this month.
     Though Virginia defended its residency requirement for petition circulators, U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. said such requirements “will likely be declared unconstitutional, and plaintiffs will ultimately prevail.”
     Because the other favors tipped toward the commonwealth’s board of elections, however, Gibney refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would put the four candidates on the ballot.
     “Had the case been timely filed, the court would have ordered the defendants not to enforce the residency requirement for petition circulators, and the plaintiffs could have tried, with the expanded pool of campaign workers, to get the 10,000 signatures,” he concluded. “In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair.”
     The candidates argued that their inability to speak through non-Virginians is unconstitutional. “The plaintiffs offered evidence that, if they could have used non-residents to gather signatures, they would have met the 10,000 signature threshold. Each candidate had out-of-state people ready, willing, and able to come to Virginia to secure signatures,” according to the Jan. 13 judgment.
     The candidates had an ample amount of time to rally support, Gibney wrote. Between July 1 and Dec. 22, 2011, the candidates “could have brought in an army of out-of-state circulators to persuade people to sign petitions and, ultimately, vote for them,” the decision states. “The candidates waited almost half a year before seeking judicial relief. As to the first element of laches, therefore, the court finds that the plaintiffs displayed an unreasonable and inexcusable lack of diligence.”
     Gibney also tossed claims that the Virginia statute merely states that candidates “may,” but are not “required to,” obtain 10,000 signatures. “Clearly, the statute means that a candidate ‘may’ want to run for election in Virginia’s primary,” he wrote. “If he does so, he needs to comply with the requirements of the statute, all of which are stated as things that ‘shall’ be done. There is no question that they are mandatory.”
     Without signature requirements, “fringe candidates and crackpots have the potential to complicate needlessly both the ballot and the counting of votes,” the court noted. “The 10,000 signature requirement is plainly constitutional, and the number of signatures required is not asserted as a ground for preliminary relief.”
     However, “the board has offered no evidence that allowing non-residents to circulate petitions increases the instances of fraud,” Gibney added. “Moreover, the court is not persuaded that such an argument is valid, as multiple courts have rejected the idea that non-residents are inherently less honest.”
     The court also recognized “the imminence of the primary, potential for voter confusion, increased expense, and a potential disruption of the electoral process if preliminary relief were to be granted.”

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