By Jeremy Pelofsky ,Reuters
WASHINGTON — Virginia plans to print and mail absentee ballots for its upcoming Republican presidential primary with only candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul listed, a state official said on Friday, despite a court challenge from Rick Perry. Texas Governor Perry sued Virginia election officials after state Republican officials ruled he did not get the required number of verified voter signatures, arguing the state’s qualification process limits voters’ access to the candidates of their choosing. U.S. District Judge John Gibney set a Jan. 13 hearing on the matter.
To comply with laws that protect overseas absentee voters, the state must send ballots to them at least 45 days before the March 6 primary contest, meaning they will have to be mailed by Jan. 21. It takes about two weeks to prepare and mail ballots, a state official said. Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich also failed to get the 10,000 verifiable signatures, including at least 400 qualified voters from each congressional district, that are necessary to be included in Virginia’s primary. A Virginia official said the state will proceed with printing and mailing ballots with only former Massachusetts Governor Romney and U.S. Representative Paul listed. A spokesman for Gingrich said his campaign likely will join Perry’s lawsuit but a final decision has not yet been made. Judge Gibney gave candidates until Jan. 6 to decide whether to join or oppose Perry’s lawsuit.