Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who along with Newt Gingrich didn’t submit the required number of signatures to petition to make it onto the Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot, is taking the fight for ballot access to federal court.
In a release sent late Tuesday, Perry’s campaign announced it has filed suit against the Republican Party of Virginia and the state board of elections in the Eastern District of Virginia over what the campaign claims is a ballot access statute that “limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice.”
The Perry suit claims Virginia’s entire statutory scheme for getting on the presidential primary ballot is constitutionally flawed, but it zeros in on the state’s ban on the use of out-of-state petition circulators to gather signatures. Perry argues that the requirement that petition circulators be either registered voters in Virginia or eligible to vote in Virginia is what prevented him from gathering the necessary number of signatures.
“Virginia ballot access rules are among the most onerous and are particularly problematic in a multi-candidate election,” Perry spokesperson Ray Sullivan said in a statement. “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.”
Normally, suing a state Republican Party in federal court is not seen as the best way to endear your candidate to state Republican voters. But Perry’s suit can be seen as an attempt to turn an embarrassing episode — failing to collect the proper number of signatures to get a slot on the ballot — into an advantage by putting the process on trial. A victory in court is probably the only way Perry can hope to be counted in the March 6 Virginia primary, as the state legislature has shown no interest in altering the rules to allow write-ins in primary balloting.
A campaign official for Newt Gingrich, who was leading in the last public poll of Virginia before he, too, failed to submit enough eligible signatures to qualify for the ballot, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Perry’s suit.
Two of Perry’s main rivals in the upcoming Iowa caucus, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, did obtain sufficient numbers of signatures and were able to get their names on the ballot.
Read Perry’s court filing here: