The slate of Republican presidential hopefuls who did not qualify for the Virginia primary might get another shot. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II plans to file emergency legislation to re-open the process to GOP candidates.
Virginia’s process has come under fire since it was announced last week that only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) had qualified for the ballot.
“Recent events have underscored that our system is deficient,” Cuccinelli (R) said in a statement Saturday. “Virginia owes her citizens a better process. We can do it in time for the March primary if we resolve to do so quickly.”
Neither Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Michelle Bachmann, former senator Rick Santorum nor former House speaker Newt Gingrich submitted the 10,000 signatures required to get a spot on the state’s ballot in time for Super Tuesday.
According to news reports, Cuccinelli’s plan would allow candidates who qualify for federal matching funds to go onto the state’s ballot. Perry’s campaign filed a lawsuit maintaining that he was unable to submit the required signatures because of the state’s “requirement that all petition circulators be an eligible or registered qualified voter in Virginia.”
Lawyers for Bachmann, Gingrich, 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.
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) is open to reviewing the ballot requirements but said the rules are well known. “It is unfortunate that this year, for whatever reasons, some Republican candidates did not even attempt to make the Virginia ballot, while others fell short of submitting the required number of valid signatures,” McDonnell’s spokesman Tucker Martin said in a statement.
Perry and Gingrich submitted thousands of petitions to the state but did not have enough valid voter signatures to qualify.
If the lawsuit does not prevail, Cuccinelli’s emergency legislative proposal might be their only hope. His effort is also supported by some Democrats in the state, including former attorney generals Tony Troy and Steve Rosenthal.
Romney’s state chairman, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, said he is opposed to changing Virginia’s ballot rules in the middle of the election process.
“I understand that some people are disappointed that their favorite candidate didn’t get on the election ballot but the rules were well known to everyone, and every candidate had a chance to collect the number of valid petition signatures that are required by Virginia law,” Bolling said in a statement. “Whether you like the current system or not is a fair debate for future elections. You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game just because you don’t like the result. That doesn’t seem fair or legally correct to me.”
Staff writers Amy Gardner and Anita Kumar contributed to this report.