Friday, January 13, 2012

Federal Judge Denies Perry, Gingrich et al Request for Injunction in Virginia

Rick Perry, joined by Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum, filed a lawsuit challenging the ballot requirements of the Republican Party of Virginia.  Currently, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have fulfilled Virginia's requirements and will be on the March 6 primary ballot.

U.S. District Judge John Gibney (an Obama appointee) has ruled against these campaigns.  The principal reason for Gibney's ruling seems to be the doctrine of laches (when a plaintiff takes an unreasonable amount of time to claim a legal defense of his or her rights).

Gibney seems to suggest that, in his opinion, Virginia's requirement that only those who are eligible to register to vote can circulate petitions for a candidate is an abridgement of the First Amendment.  However, requiring 10,000 signatures with at least 400 signatures from each Congressional district is not an unconstitutional burden.  If the campaigns had filed a lawsuit against this purported abridgement of First Amendment rights earlier (such as in August or September or October), Gibney probably would have ruled this requirement unconstitutional.

However, the candidates did not do that.  As Gibney writes:
They plaintiffs could have challenged the Virginia law at that time. Instead, they waited until after the time to gather petitions had ended and they had lost the political battle to be on the ballot; then, on the eve of the printing of absentee ballots, they decided to challenge Virginia's laws. In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair.
Because they waited so long, Gibney has denied their request for an injunction.

Some other interesting details come out in this.  One is that the Virginia State Board of Elections does not seem to know the exact number of signatures that either Gingrich or Perry got.  However, Perry's camp only admits that it submitted more than 6,000 signatures, and the Board agrees that it was less than 10,000.  Gingrich's camp says it submitted 11,050 signatures, but the Board determined that fewer than 10,000 were valid.  These details seem to suggest no evidence for a RINO establishment conspiracy to keep Perry and Gingrich off the ballot.

Gibney's ruling also notes that Jerry Kilgore, a former Attorney General of Virginia and the Virginia campaign chair for Perry, got over 13,000 valid signatures on a "shoestring budget" in his race for AG in 1997.

We'll have to see whether/how these campaigns appeal this ruling.

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