A presidential candidate is arguing that one state's ballot-access laws unconstitutionally violate his First Amendment rights. The candidate in question is not an independent, but the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who is suing the state of Virginia after he failed to submit the number of petitions required by local law for a line on a statewide ballot. Perry's petitions haven't been challenged; they were too few to challenge. He fell approximately 4,000 short of the 10,000 Virginia requires, but he claims to have been unfairly handicapped by a provision requiring that petitions be solicited and collected only by residents of the state. Perry regards this as an absurdity, since it would forbid him from going door-to-door in Virginia to solicit signatures on his own behalf, as well as an unjustifiable restriction on the number of "message carriers."
Perry's case is complicated by the fact that Virginia's rules did not prevent the governor's fellow Texan, Ron Paul, nor the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, from collecting the signatures needed to get on the primary ballot. That difficulty has not deterred Perry's other rivals, Messrs. Gingrich, Huntsman and Santorum, from joining the suit, despite the fact that neither Huntsman nor Santorum even bothered to submit petitions. Their claim, as far as I can tell, is based on the proposition that they are entitled as announced candidates for the GOP nomination to appear on the same ballot as Romney (not to mention Paul) wherever he runs. Against this proposition, the governor of the state, their fellow Republican, says that anyone who expects to become President ought to be able to scare up 10,000 Virginia signatures relying on Virginia resources alone. While the governor is open to revising ballot-access rules in the future, he doesn't believe they should be changed during the primary season. He adds: "If you dilute those standards too much you could have multiple
candidates on the ballot that really aren't serious and could
potentially confuse voters,"
Poor Rick Perry: treated like a third-party candidate. Some people will only acknowledge that a system's unfair when it's unfair to them. The usual Republican response to such complaints, I presume, is to affirm the fairness of the system -- if not the fairness of life itself -- and call the complainant a loser. But for me to do that here would be too much like shooting a dead horse in a barrel to be any fun.