RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A federal appeals court in Richmond has denied Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum a spot in the March 6 Virginia primary.
Siding with a lower court that also issued a denial last Friday, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, acting with "utmost expedition," ruled that, "If we were to grant the requested relief, we would encourage candidates for President who knew the requirements and failed to satisfy them to seek at a tardy and belated hour to change the rules of the game. This would not be fair to the states or to other candidates who did comply with the prescribed process in a timely manner…"
By law, absentee ballots in Virginia must be mailed by Saturday, January 21. The appeals court further wrote, "It is too late in the day to grant [Perry's] requested emergency relief upon appeal."
In a statement, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote, "I am pleased with the Fourth Circuit ruling and that Virginia's orderly election process will be able to move forward."
Perry -who later was joined in his suit by Gingrich and Santorum- claimed Virginia's ballot qualifying requirements were unconstitutional. Candidates must obtain at least 10,000 signatures, including 400 from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts. Current law states the signatures must also be collected by Virginia residents, a provision the lower court found likely to be unconstitutional.
Additionally, "[Perry] had every opportunity to challenge the various Virginia ballot requirements at a time when the challenge would not have created the disruption that this last-minute lawsuit has," wrote the court.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Joe Nixon, attorney for the Perry campaign, wrote, "This appellate ruling only affirms the trial court's assertion that the state's process of printing ballots should not be disrupted."
Additionally, "An orderly ballot access process is important, but of little significance if viable candidates are unconstitutionally kept off the ballot. The trial judge's holding that the statute is unconstitutional is not disturbed," wrote Nixon, adding, "Gov. Perry is weighing options for appeal."
Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul obtained the required signatures in order to qualify for the March 6 primary.