Candidates Go to Court to Challenge Virginia Republican Primary - Civil Rights Law - U.S. Fourth Circuit
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Candidates Go to Court to Challenge Virginia Republican Primary

Do elections unmarred by court battles happen anymore?

Between birther lawsuits and Citizens United challenges to state election laws, it seems like elections, absent legal challenges, are a thing of the past.

Now, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals could decide the latest case in the long line of court-decided ballot battles.

The Virginia Republican primary, if you haven't heard, is currently a two-man race between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Paul and Romney were the only two candidates to collect the requisite 10,000 verifiable signatures to qualify for the ballot. Candidates were required to submit the signatures, including 400 signatures from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts, by 5 p.m. on December 22, 2011, reports The Washington Post.

Newt Gingrich, who was leading the polls in Virginia at the time, did not qualify. Nor did Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, or Rick Santorum.

On December 28, Perry sued to have his name added to the ballot. Last week, U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. granted Gingrich, Huntsman, and Santorum's motion to intervene, giving the three other disqualified hopefuls a shot at getting on the Virginia Republican primary ballot, reports Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

The crux of their argument is that the Virginia petition circulator requirements unconstitutionally restrict First Amendment free speech rights and Fourteenth Amendment freedom of association rights. (Virginia petition circulators must be registered to vote, or eligible to vote, in Virginia.) The candidates claim that the requirement impaired their ability to collect the requisite number of signatures.

(Sidebar, disqualified candidates: We used to live in Virginia. We collected signatures to help a candidate qualify for the Virginia ballot in 2008. It isn't that hard that hard to find idealistic 18-year-olds to collect signatures.)

Judge Gibney ordered the state to halt printing and mailing absentee ballots for the March 6 Virginia Republican primary until he could rule on the disqualified candidates' claims. The Virginia state board of elections, in turn, filed an emergency appeal to lift the order with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Perry responded with a brief to the Fourth Circuit on Wednesday, which argued that the elections board did not have a right to appeal because Judge Gibney's order was not final, reports Politico.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals action on the emergency appeal is probably unnecessary, since Judge Gibney is hearing arguments in the district court on Friday. He is expected to issue an opinion shortly thereafter.

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