Four GOP candidates join Perry's lawsuit challenging Virginia ballot access

Four additional GOP presidential candidates joined Rick Perry's federal court challenge to Virginia's ballot-access rules this weekend, in a show of force by five rivals for the Republican nomination who otherwise will not appear on the state's primary ballot.

Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, and Perry all failed to qualify for Virginia's primary ballot because their campaigns did not collect enough signatures.

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Texas Gov. Perry first filed a federal court challenge to Virginia’s ballot-access rules on Tuesday. Attorneys representing the additional candidates sent a letter to the chairman of Virginia's Republican party on Saturday. The letter asks that the candidates' names be added to the ballot, an action that would moot their constitutional challenge to the current law.

The state requires candidates to obtain 10,000 signatures from registered voters in the state, including at least 400 from each of 11 congressional districts. 

Gingrich said his campaign's failure to qualify was a result of fraud. "We hired somebody who turned in false signatures. We turned in 11,100 – we needed 10,000 – 1,500 of them were by one guy who frankly committed fraud,” Gingrich said Wednesday, according to CNN.

Santorum, Huntsman, and Bachmann did not file paperwork to be included on the ballot. Santorum slammed Virginia's strict rules as favoring the richest presidential candidates.

Perry's campaign blamed "onerous" requirements.

“We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support," Perry's communications director Ray Sullivan said in a statement last week.

Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spoke out against the "deficient" system last week. His office plans to propose changes to the system and to file emergency legislation to re-open the process to GOP candidates, according to multiple reports. 

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell's office indicated he would be open to reviewing Virginia's rules, but pointed out that the rules have been in place "for many years."

A district court judge has set a hearing on Perry's challenge for Jan. 13. Virginia is required to print their ballots by Jan. 9, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but the judge indicated ballots could be printed twice if required by the results of the hearing. 

The letter from legal counsels for the four joining GOP candidates requested that the Republican Party either add their names to the ballot or wait to undertake action until the hearing date.

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are the only GOP candidates to qualify for Virginia's primary ballot so far. Romney commented this week that Gingrich's campaign failure to get on the ballot sounded like an episode of the sitcom "I Love Lucy." He later clarified to CNN that the analogy occurred because campaigns are "not always as organized as you'd like to be."

Voting takes place in Virginia on March 6.