No Virginia ballots should be ordered or mailed to absentee voters until a federal judge decides which Republican presidential candidates will be on the state's primary ballot.
That temporary order was made Monday by District Judge John A. Gibney Jr., who will make a final decision Friday, Jan. 13, said Joseph Nixon, the lead counsel for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry filed a lawsuit last month against Virginia's State Board of Elections after he didn't get enough signatures to get on the March 6 primary ballot.
Only two Republican candidates did: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Last week, other GOP hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman joined Perry's lawsuit challenging Virginia's strict ballot access law, which required candidates to get 10,000 qualified signatures of support by Dec. 22.
In a complaint filed Dec. 27, Perry said his constitutional rights to freedoms of speech and association were violated by the state's electoral requirements. He asked to be reinstated on the ballot.
However, in a Jan. 3 court filing, Virginia's office of the attorney general wrote that Perry "lacks standing to assert an injury arising from the inability to circulate his own petitions because there is no averment that he stood ready, willing and able to circulate his own petitions and there is no basis for concluding that he would have collected a sufficient number of valid signatures."
Perry begs to differ. On Friday, he will call three witnesses to testify on his behalf at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond. They include Joe Allbaugh, a senior adviser for his campaign; Neal Blair, who helped coordinate the campaign's efforts to get on the Virginia ballot; and Jerry Kilgore, a former attorney general for Virginia who will testify about the faults of the state's ballot access requirements
In the meantime, Virginia's State Board of Elections is making back-up plans should the judge decide to allow more candidates on the ballot, said Justin Reimer, the board's deputy secretary.
It takes several weeks to proof, design and print ballots, said Reimer, and federal law requires absentee ballots be mailed 45 days before the election. That means Jan. 21 is the make-or-break deadline for the March 6 primary.
This will be a challenging deadline to make, considering Monday's ruling to delay absentee-ballot distribution. But, Reimer said, "We're doing the best we can."