I have been surprised at the number of complaints that have come from conservatives after Texas Governor Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich failed to qualify for the Virginia March 2012 primary ballot. From a group who usually pride themselves on taking personal responsibility, the — dare I call it whining? — from the candidates’ campaigns (well, Newt’s; Perry has handled it much better until now) and their supporters has been non-stop since the news broke on Christmas Eve.
Now comes word from the Rick Perry camp that they filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Commonwealth of Virginia claiming the statute is unconstitutional.
Nothing has changed in the past decade. The same rules were in place for the George W. Bush for President campaign in 2000. The same rules were in place for the John McCain for President campaign in 2008.
I really am surprised at this move and question if this is the best use of campaign funds in the waning days leading to the upcoming round of primaries. My Bearing Drift colleague Shaun Kenney has more and noted:
Of course, Virginia’s rules have been in place for over 50 years… so Perry will be hard pressed to demonstrate that his disqualification was on form rather than on substance. Still, this does make things rather interesting heading down the road (not to mention Perry’s response was a much more disciplined response than Gingrich’s three-day temper tantrum).
Ironically, Rick Perry headlined a well-attended fundraiser for the Republican Party of Virginia in mid-September when more than 1,100 attended a luncheon to hear from the at-that-time rising star in the field of GOP presidential contenders.
Here is the official press release from the Perry campaign:
Perry Files Federal Court Challenge to Virginia Ballot Access RulesVirginia voters deserve greater access to the candidate of their choosingTexas Gov. Rick Perry today filed suit in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the constitutional validity of the Virginia statute which regulates access to the ballot by presidential candidates and limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice. To review the filing, please visit http://www.rickperry.org/content/uploads/2011/12/Perry-VA-Ballot-Access.pdf.
Virginia’s ballot access requirements are among the most onerous in the nation and severely restrict who may obtain petition signatures.
“Gov. Perry greatly respects the citizens and history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and believes Virginia Republicans should have greater access to vote for one of the several candidates for President of the United States,” said Perry campaign communications director Ray Sullivan.
“Virginia ballot access rules are among the most onerous and are particularly problematic in a multi-candidate election. We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support.”
In 2008, 119,034 Virginians voted in the 2008 Republican Presidential Primary election. The requirement that several national candidates each obtain 10,000 individual qualified voter’s signatures is unrealistic and onerous. Both voters and candidates have 1st and 14th Amendment rights to meaningfully participate in the political process.
Provisions very similar to Virginia’s prohibition on out-of-state petition circulators have been struck down in the 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th United States Circuits, relying on Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation, 525 US 182 (1999). Also, ballot access requirements for unrealistic numbers of signatures was held unconstitutional in Rockefeller v. Powers, 78 F.3d 44 (2nd Cir. 1999).
The Virginia Republican Party may inform the Virginia Board of Election which candidates it seeks to have on the ballot despite the statutory ballot access requirements. Gov. Perry’s suit seeks to have the Virginia statue held unconstitutional and requests the Party to have him listed on the Republican primary ballot.
Not having a grassroots game in place to be able to turn in the required 10,000 signatures is no one’s fault except the campaign itself. Two candidates had no problem getting on the ballot: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Filing a lawsuit is disappointing news from Perry whose predecessor, George W. Bush, campaigned in 2000 on personal responsibility and walked the walk while in the White House. No matter how much criticism was heaped on him, he did not whine or complain or blame others.
Sorry, Governor Perry. I cannot agree with this move.
Update: The Staunton News Leader’s Wednesday editorial opined: “Cuccinelli, Gingrich must stop whining.”
Update: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a post about RPV’s notification to the candidates, noting that “… the idea that the Republican Party in Virginia has a stake in narrowing the field is, frankly, strange.”
Update: Rick Perry, opposer of ‘frivolous lawsuits,’ sues Virginia
Update: Perry’s bid to stop printing of Virginia ballots rejected by federal judge.
Update: Judge questions Perry primary motion, set January 13 hearing
Cross-posted at LynnRMitchell.com