Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) announced today that he will intervene to ensure that more Republican presidential candidates will appear on the state’s primary ballot.
Thanks to newly stringent enforcement of rules requiring 10,000 valid signatures, only Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney made it onto the ballot for the state’s March 6 primary. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry both cried foul, with the latter suing in federal court. Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman all signed onto that effort on Saturday.
“Recent events have underscored that our system is deficient,” Cuccinelli said in a statement. “Virginia owes her citizens a better process. We can do it in time for the March primary if we resolve to do so quickly.”
Cuccinelli was backed up by two Democratic former attorney generals, Steve Rosenthal and Tony Troy.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is also open to broadening the requirements, according to a spokesman.
“If the General Assembly decides to take action to change Virginia’s ballot access requirements for the March 2012 primary, the Governor would review those changes thoroughly and take action at the appropriate time,” Tucker Martin said in a statement.
But Cuccinelli did not elaborate on how he would follow through on the pledge. State legislators have already said that there is no time to change the requirements for the ballots, which must be sent out by Jan. 31.
“Whether you like the current system or not is a fair debate for future elections, but I don’t understand how you can change the rules in the middle of this election process,” Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) in a statement. “If you do that it would be unfair to those candiates who qualified for the ballot in accordance with the law and the rules that had previously been established.”
If the attorney general succeeds in loosening the ballot restrictions, it would be welcome news for Gingrich and Perry. But right now, it’s not clear that either candidate will still be in the race come March 6.