WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry filed suit Tuesday in a Virginia court challenging the constitutional validity of the state law which currently bars him from Virginia's Republican primary ballot. The decision to challenge state law poses a unique political challenge for Perry, who has positioned himself throughout the Republican primary as the field's most stalwart defender of states' rights.
On Friday, the Republican Party of Virginia issued a ruling that Perry had failed to amass the required 10,000 signatures needed to appear on the ballot in the state's March 6 primary contest. Of the six candidates currently in the GOP primary race, only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) have qualified for the state ballot.
According to a statement Tuesday from the Perry campaign, Virginia's statute "limits the rights of voters to vote for the candidate of their choice," and the state's laws are "among the most onerous in the nation and severely restrict who may obtain petition signatures." The Perry campaign posted a copy of its filing, which was made with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Click here to read the documents.
Perry campaign communications director Ray Sullivan characterized the rules as "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," Sullivan said in the statement, "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."
Perry's suit "seeks to have the Virginia statue held unconstitutional and requests the [Virginia Republican] Party to have him listed on the Republican primary ballot."
As governor of Texas, Perry gained national prominence by raising the possibility of a Texas secession, and filing suit against the federal government on issues ranging from President Obama's health care law to the Environmental Protection Agency's findings on global warming. Perry's 2010 book, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington" reads like a treatise against federal bureaucracy.
But in his campaign's statement Tuesday, Perry appears to strike a different tone, highlighting a number of Supreme Court precedents on ballot access that overturned decisions by lesser courts on the grounds that the restrictions were unconstitutional.
"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," Sullivan said, pointing to the 1999 case Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation. Sullivan also said that "ballot access requirements for unrealistic numbers of signatures was held unconstitutional in Rockefeller v. Powers, 78 F.3d 44 (2nd Cir. 1999)."
A spokesman for Perry declined to respond Tuesday evening to an inquiry from The Huffington Post about the apparent inconsistency with his states' rights position.