Today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney found that the statute which Perry, Gingrich, Huntsman and Santorum were challenging was indeed unconstitutional. First Amendment freedom of speech was violated by Virginia’s statute which says that only Virginia residents may gather petition signatures. Unfortunately, the judge also ruled the doctrine of equitable laches prevents the four candidates from being added to the ballot. In other words, he ruled the case was late filed, so the plaintiffs will not be added to the Virginia ballot for now. Bryan Preston has some more here.
An aside. Someone made off with my grey herringbone coat from the courtroom. I have yours; you have mine. You took mine and yours was the only one hanging on the rack. Mine is a Ralph Lauren. Yours is a Tommy Hilfiger. Let’s find a way to exchange it. My email isn’t hard to find if you go to electionlawcenter.com.
Apart from me losing a coat, the big message from the case today relates to all those who were critical of this case being filed. It shows there were real constitutional rights injured by the Virginia law. It is a violation of the First Amendment to have laws which limit who may express political speech when collecting petition signatures. Let’s hope the Virginia General Assembly fixes this law, fast, before the next plaintiff, (without a laches concern), gets a big hefty attorney’s fee award against the Commonwealth.
It is no defense to argue that some candidates in the past negotiated an unconstitutional law. If the government made some people buy a license to attend church, it is no defense to say the burden is minimal because some people could comply with the church license. Conservatives are America’s best champions of the Bill of Rights, whether the Second, Fifth, of First Amendments. Slavish attachment to an unconstitutional statute doesn’t do the conservative cause any good. Perhaps some conservative elected officials in Virginia who have long championed constitutional limits on government will step up and do what’s right now that the the Virginia General Assembly opened today.