Gingrich, Perry active in defending themselves in Virginia ballot squabble
The most important things happening in the 2012 presidential campaign are no doubt coming from Iowa, with their first in the nation caucus just a few days away. But while the candidates make their closing arguments, the Virginia ballot squabble continues to hang over the discussion.
In the most interesting development from today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich put the blame for missing the ballot on a single member of his campaign team that collected signatures on his behalf. During an event today, Gingrich explained his failure to make the ballot as the result of his staff member committing fraud.
“We hired somebody who turned in false signatures,” said Gingrich. “We turned in 11,100 – we needed 10,000 – 1,500 of them were by one guy who frankly committed fraud.” (h/t CNN)
Sources that were inside the room while the ballots were being counted say tell me that the Gingrich’s account “closely mirrors” what they saw that night.
The conservative website Bearing Drift, reported the night of the counting that the rumor from the inside was that about 2,000 signatures were going to be tossed.
This unlikely scenario was actually predicted by a satirical twitter page, designed to make fun of NBC12. I have more on that on my facebook page.
Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry‘s campaign continues its legal challenge to get access to the Virginia ballot. Today they requested an emergency order in federal court to require Virginia’s Board of Elections to place his name on the ballot.
His campaign contends that the voters are the ones whose rights are being violated by leaving them fewer options for Super Tuesday.
In an interview on NBC12 First at 4, Perry Communications director Ray Sullivan told me from Iowa that despite his commitment to state’s rights, the Texas governor, believes the federal courts have every right to intervene.
“He (Perry) believes the Constitution gives both the voters and citizens of Virginia as well as the candidates the reasonable rights to the political process that we believe are being are infringed by onerous and restrictive ballot access rules,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan claims that Virginia’s requirement of 10,000 signatures, including 400 from each congressional district is particularly restrictive.
“The 10,000 requirement when you have 7 candidates seeking a pool of 119,000 republican voters is an unreasonable and onerous burden to put on the candidates,” said Sullivan. “That in effect, denies people the right to participate in the political process.”
But what Sullivan couldn’t explain, was how the campaign told the Virginia Board of Elections that they had collected more than 11,000 signatures when in reality, only 6,000 were handed in.
“I don’t have an explanation for you,” said Sullivan. “The petitions were turned in.”
You can see our entire interview with Sullivan below:
While the campaigns made moves of their own to re-establish themselves on the Virginia ballot, former Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Paul Goldman called for state lawmakers to enact “emergency legislation” to allow more people to get on the ballot. A path that House Majority Leader Kirk Cox told us yesterday was unlikely.
Andy Jenks has that part of the story on NBC12.com.
And while all these different groups continued to make excuses and attack the Republican Party of Virginia, today the party struck back. They released a passionate defense of their petition certification process and reminded reporters of their intial assessment that Perry and Gingrich fell well short of the 10,000 mark.
“The failure of these two candidates to meet the state requirements does not call into question the accuracy of the Party’s certification of the two candidates who are duly qualified to appear on the ballot,” wrote party spokesman Garren Shipley.
Their full statement can be found after the jump:
Statement of RPV on Petition Certification
|The Republican Party of Virginia issued the following statement:From the earliest days of the campaigns, RPV has actively told candidates that Virginia’s signature requirements could be a difficult legal requirement to meet for those who were new to Virginia politics. In October 2011, RPV formally adopted the certification procedures that were applied on December 23: any candidate who submitted over 15,000 facially-valid signatures would be presumed to be in compliance with Virginia’s 10,000 signature law. The presumption of compliance was set at 15,000 for a variety of reasons.
First, in the party’s long experience with petitions, RPV has never encountered a situation where a candidate who submitted 15,000 signatures has failed to make the ballot (absent cases of obvious fraud).
Second, Virginia’s State Board of Elections advises candidates to collect 15,000 or more signatures to be safe, based on their long experience with average failure rates.
Third, RPV adopted the 15,000-signature presumption because the Party wants all of its candidates to qualify for the ballot. The 15,000-signature presumption served as an incentive for candidates to comply with the law with a safe margin of signatures.
Fourth, under Virginia law, RPV’s Chairman is assigned a profound legal obligation to ensure that each candidate has met Virginia’s legal requirements. The Party was afforded under Virginia law only 5 days over Christmas to review ballot petitions and signatures. The 15,000-signature presumption was intended to assist the RPV Chairman in meeting his legal obligations in an efficient process that would run quickly while providing the Party and the Commonwealth assurances of legal compliance based upon mathmatical experience.
RPV officials encouraged candidates repeatedly, through both counsel and field staff, to submit 15,000 or more signatures in an abundance of caution, so that they would meet the legal requirements.
Candidates were officially informed of the 15,000 rule in October 2011, well in advance of the Dec. 22 submission deadline. The rule was no surprise to any candidate – and indeed, no candidate or campaign offered any complaints until after the Dec. 23 validation process had concluded.
Despite this early notice and RPV’s exhortations to candidates, only one candidate availed himself of the 15,000 signature threshold – Governor Mitt Romney. RPV counted Governor Romney’s signatures, reviewed them for facial validity, and determined he submitted well over 15,000. Never in the party’s history has a candidate who submitted more than 15,000 signatures had 33 percent invalidated. The party is confident that Governor Romney met the statutory threshold.
Rep. Ron Paul submitted just under 15,000, and was submitted to signature-by-signature scrutiny on the same basis as the other candidates who submitted fewer than 15,000 signatures. After more than 7 hours of work, RPV determined that Rep. Paul had cleared the statutory 10,000/400 signature standard with ease.
Two other candidates did not come close to the 10,000 valid signature threshold. RPV regrets that Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry did not meet the legal requirements established by the General Assembly. Indeed, our hope was to have a full Republican field on the ballot for Republican voters to consider on March 6.
The party will discuss the specific nature of their shortfalls if necessary. But the failure of these two candidates to meet the state requirements does not call into question the accuracy of the Party’s certification of the two candidates who are duly qualified to appear on the ballot.