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The PJ Tatler

by
Richard Pollock

Bio

January 4, 2012 - 1:03 pm

As already reported at the Tatler, three presidential campaigns representing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Rick Santorum, and Governor Jon Huntsman today joined Texas Governor Rick Perry in challenging Virginia’s state ballot law, saying the threshold for getting on the ballot is too restrictive.  They asked for an expedited review before a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia.

Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) are the only candidates to have made it onto the ballot for the March 6 Republican state primary. Gingrich, Huntsman, and Perry were denied access to the ballot due to insufficient signatures. Absentee ballots must be printed and mailed by January 21.

Virginia has one of the toughest ballot requirements in the nation, second only to New York.  The state requires signatures from 10,000 registered voters and at least 400 signatures from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts in order to get on a statewide ballot.  New York requires 15,000 signatures. Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution dictates that election rules must be decided by the states, not the federal government.  As a result, each state has different requirements.

Much to his embarrassment, Perry was only able to secure 6,000 signatures in a state that has many conservative areas that mirror Texas political sentiment.  Gingrich turned in 11,000 signatures but more than 1,500 were thrown out as fraudulent.  Gingrich’s campaign has been hampered by many instances of disorganization and disarray. While Perry once had a campaign war chest up to $17 million, many analysts believe he has exhausted most of his money.  Both did poorly in Tuesday’s Iowa caucus.

Over the decades, a number of congressional initiatives have been sought to “nationalize” state ballot access. Ironically one of the prime sponsors of congressional bills to impose uniform national standards was Rep. Paul, who usually is a champion of state rights.  He joined ultra-liberal Democrats Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Tim Penny (D-MN) to repeatedly call for a single federal standard for election ballot access.

The issue of access to state ballots also has been a major problem for third parties.  Many states require signatures from 2% to 3% of registered voters for small parties to gain access.  These are difficult hurdles to meet. In Alabama, for example, it would require signatures of more than 40,000 people.  In North Carolina third party rules would demand 85,000 signatures.

Virginia state Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins, a defendant in the lawsuit, asked the court to dismiss the case.

“If you want to be president of the United States, you ought to be able to collect 10,000 signatures in Virginia,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said today.

Richard Pollock is the Washington, D.C., editor for PJ Media and the Washington bureau chief of PJTV.

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