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Virginia attorney general changes mind, won’t intervene in primary ballot case

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Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) announced Sunday that he has reconsidered his decision from Saturday and will not seek to get several GOP presidential candidates added to the state’s primary ballot.

Every candidate except Mitt Romney and Ron Paul failed to meet the stringent requirements to get on the ballot for the state’s March 6 primary, and Cuccinelli said Saturday that he would seek to get them added to the ballot.

But in a statement Sunday, he reversed course and said he would seek a change in the requirements for future elections only.

In the end, Cuccinelli said trying to make immediate changes wouldn’t be fair to the Romney and Paul campaigns.

“I obviously feel very strongly that Virginia needs to change its ballot access requirements for our statewide elections,” Cuccinelli said. “However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democratic leaders to attempt to make changes in time for the 2012 presidential election, my concern grows that we cannot find a way to make such changes fair to the Romney and Paul campaigns that qualified even with Virginia’s burdensome system. A further critical factor that I must consider is that changing the rules midstream is inconsistent with respecting and preserving the rule of law — something I am particularly sensitive to as Virginia’s attorney general.

The state requires 10,000 signatures to get on the ballot, and requires that those circulating petitions be eligible or registered Virginia voters.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry both said the requirements were unfair, and Perry is suing to get on the ballot. Lawyers for Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman sent a letter to the Virginia State Board of Elections on Saturday saying they will be filing a joint motion asking the panel to either add them to the state ballot or to take no action until a judge has had a chance to consider Perry’s case Jan. 13.

Cucinelli added a note of contrition at the end of his statement Sunday. He said he was trying to do what was best for the citizens of Virginia, but that he must uphold the law as it was written.

“I do not change position on issues of public policy often or lightly,” Cuccinelli said. “But when convinced that my position is wrong, I think it necessary to concede as much and adjust accordingly.”

Washington Post Staff Writer Anita Kumar contributed to this post.

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