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Judge denies lawsuit, Rick Perry, others remain off Virginia Republican primary ballot

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Federal District Court Judge John Gibney ruled against Texas Governor Rick Perry and other Republican presidential candidates who sued in an effort to appear on the ballot for the Virginia Republican primary in March. [CLICK HERE: Comment about the ruling on Facebook]

“In essense, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair,” wrote Judge Gibney in his opinion released Friday afternoon in Richmond, Virginia.

[CLICK HERE: Read the judge's order]

The suit was originally filed by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Jon Hunstman later joined the challenge.

According to documents, the candidates asked the Court for a preliminary injunction ordering that they be listed on the ballot for the Virginia Republican primary despite the fact all failed to meet the 10,000 signature petition requirements to get on the ballot.

Only candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul met the requirements.

The candidates argue the 10,000 signature requirement and the Virginia rule that only people eligible to register to vote may collect the petitions violates the Constitution.

They also challenged Virginia’s rule that required candidates secure 400 signatures from voters in each congressional district calling it “burdensome.”

The judge ruled Virginia rules do infringe on First Amendment rights, but the challenge from the candidates came too late for courts to take action.

In his opinion, Judge Gibney wrote, “They [the candidates hoping to appear on the ballot] knew the rules in Virginia many months ago; the limitations on circulators affected them as soon as they began to circulate petitions. The 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.”

The ACLU of Virginia, which supported Perry’s effort, said the judge’s ruling will bring about change in Virginia.

“For the ACLU, the most important part of the decision is the judge’s recognition that the Virginia law violates the right of free speech,” ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis wrote in a statement. “This clearly unconstitutional law will now almost certainly be repealed by the General Assembly or struck down in court. Either way, its end is near.”

In further explaining why he denied the candidates an injunction, Judge Gibney wrote, “The traditional purpose of a preliminary injunction is to prohibit an action. Preliminary injunctions are meant to protect the status quo.”

He continued, “In this case, the plaintiffs request that the Court require the Board to add their names to the primary ballot, which is a positive act that alters the status quo.”

The candidates can appeal the judge’s opinion to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, based in Richmond, Virginia.

“I am pleased that the district court is allowing Virginia’s orderly election process to move forward. The ruling today dealt only with the request for a preliminary injunction. The litigation is ongoing, and therefore, I will have no further comment,” Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wrote in a statement released after Friday’s ruling.

Republican Party Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins said, in a statement, he was disappointed that more Republican candidates are not on our primary ballot.

Political analyst Paul Goldman called the ruling predictable. He told CBS 6 he was glad to see Judge John Gibney believed Virginia’s rules were unconstitutional.

“It needs to be fixed, and the State Board of elections knew this. I don’t know why they didn’t fix it before,” Goldman said.

CBS 6 Political Analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth agreed.

“The General Assembly is going to have to change the way Virginia collects petitions in the future. I think there’s no doubt about that,” he Holsworth.

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