Virginia AG Cuccinelli may intervene in ballot flap

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli gestures during a speech before the AP Day at the Capitol luncheon at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
AP Photo
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
AP Photo

UPDATED 6:41 p.m. ET

FORT DODGE, Iowa - Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republican presidential candidates who failed to get onto the Virginia primary ballot may have a glimmer of hope thanks to the intervention of Virginia's top lawyer.

The state's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, is planning to file emergency legislation to change the Virginia law that has kept most of the GOP candidates off the primary ballot, Fox News reported Saturday. Only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul met the requirement of 10,000 signatures to participate in the March 6 primary.

The shutout of other candidates threatens to make Virginia irrelevant in the primary process. The lack of organizing activity also could handicap the eventual Republican nominee next fall in a swing state that both parties consider must-win.

Cuccinelli said the GOP ballot situation has shown the state's law to be deficient. His bill, which prominent Democrats support, is expected to say that any candidate who qualifies for federal matching funds and asks to be on the ballot can be added to it.

"Virginia owes her citizens a better process. We can do it in time for the March primary if we resolve to do so quickly," he said in a statement to Fox News.

Perry has challenged the Virginia law and has been granted a Jan. 13 court date. On Saturday, other GOP hopefuls Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum formally joined Perry's lawsuit.

Perry's spokesman, Ray Sullivan, said Saturday that Perry "applauds" Cuccinelli's leadership on the issue and hopes the state legislature acts quickly to change the law.

"Virginia's onerous and restrictive ballot access rules do create serious constitutional problems and undermine the rights of citizens and candidates," Sullivan said, "Governor Perry agrees that Virginians deserve a better process."

Before the news about Cuccinelli's move, Perry tried to balance his legal challenge to the state's system with his campaign rhetoric that rests heavily on the 10th amendment and preserving state's rights.

"I think you need to make it relatively easy to get on the ballot. That's my biggest problem with Virginia right now, is that they have made it just incredibly hard for anyone to get on the ballot," Perry said in an interview with Fox News Saturday.

"You know most other states its about making it relatively simple, with some you know good standards in place...Again, that's that state's decision. And I may not agree with how they do it, but I'm a big 10th amendment fan and believe that the states have the sovereign right to make the decision for themselves," Perry said.

Additional reporting by Sarah Huisenga.

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.