The Campaign Spot

Virginia Republicans Could Have More Options Friday

Today is the day Virginia is supposed to begin printing its absentee ballots for the Republican presidential primary, to be held March 6. The printing must be completed so that they can be mailed by January 21; that deadline is a result of federal law that requires ballots to be sent to members of the military (Virginia residents serving overseas) at least 45 days before the primary.

But . . . the printing of the ballots has been held up by the court fight over whether the ballot should include candidates besides Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

According to Virginia state law, candidates seeking to be included on the primary ballot are required to obtain the signatures of at least 10,000 registered voters, with 400 from each of the state’s congressional districts. The problem the candidates face is the provision that only Virginia residents can collect the required signatures. The plaintiffs claim that it violates their right to freedom of speech and their right to freedom of association.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney will be holding a hearing on Friday to decide whether or not to include the four presidential candidates on the ballot. The judge has barred the distribution of absentee ballots until after Friday’s hearing and gave a five-page supplemental remark along with the order.

Gibney has indicated there’s a good chance he will have candidates added to the ballot, writing earlier, “The Court finds that there is a strong likelihood that the Court will find the residency requirement for petition circulators to be unconstitutional.”

Virginia Republicans expect that after Friday’s hearing, Gibney will probably rule quickly (probably that day) and the printing of the ballots can begin 24 hours. Ballots should get to the troops in time . . .

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