RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A year after some of the biggest names in the Republican Party went missing from Super Tuesday ballots, Virginia will now lower the threshold for candidates to compete in the Commonwealth's presidential primary.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum did not appear on Virginia's March 6, 2012 ballot for the Republican presidential nomination. All three candidates failed to reach 10,000 voter signatures Virginia requires to compete.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were the only two candidates voters could choose from in Virginia, on one of the most important days of the presidential campaign.
The Commonwealth will now lower the standard to 5,000 signatures, if Gov. Bob McDonnell signs a bill approved by both the Virginia House and Senate.
In an interview Thursday, the bill's co-patron Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) said the move is not about making the race easier, but bringing Virginia's standards in line with primary rules across the country.
"Most states require just 5,000 signatures." McClellan said. "The DNC standard is also 5,000. If we wanted to participate in the convention, we needed to have a waiver approved. All because Virginia's primary rules were different."
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli criticized Virginia's current standard, calling it unfair for viable candidates to appear in other states, and leaving voters here with fewer choices.
Candidates would now need to collect at least 200 signatures from each of Virginia's 11 congressional districts.
Last year Gingrich fell just short of the 10,000 mark. Perry handed in about 6,000 signatures, and Santorum turned in no signatures.