(CNSNews.com) - Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has switched course, saying he will not intervene to help GOP presidential candidates work around Virginia's ballot access law to get on the ballot for the state’s March 6 primary.
“I do not change position on issues of public policy often or lightly,” Cuccinelli said Monday in a statement. “But when convinced that my position is wrong, I think it necessary to concede as much and adjust accordingly.”
Last week, Cuccinelli announced that he would seek to intervene on behalf of legal action filed on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich seeking to get on the Virginia ballot.
The Virginia attorney general also indicated he would propose legislation that would allow most of the Republican presidential candidates to be placed on the 2012 primary ballot.
Only two Republican presidential candidates -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) – have qualified for the ballot in Virginia on Super Tuesday, thanks in large part to Virginia’s cumbersome ballot access law.
But on Monday, however, Cuccinelli changed his mind about intervening.
"I obviously feel very strongly that Virginia needs to change its ballot access requirements for our statewide elections,” Cuccinelli said.
“However, after working through different scenarios with Republican and Democratic leaders to attempt to make changes in time for the 2012 Presidential election, my concern grows that we cannot find a way to make such changes fair to the Romney and Paul campaigns that qualified even with Virginia's burdensome system.”
Cuccinelli argued that his intervention in 2012 would amount to “changing the rules midstream,” which he said was “inconsistent with respecting and preserving the rule of law.”
“My intentions have never focused on which candidates would be benefited or harmed,” Cuccinelli said, “rather I have focused on what is best for Virginia's citizens, as hundreds of thousands of Virginians who should have been able to make their choices among the full field of presidential primary contenders have had their number of choices reduced significantly.”
He added: “I believe consistency on the part of public officials is an important attribute. And I believe that Virginians are best served by an attorney general who consistently supports the rule of law. That leads to my conclusion that while I will vigorously support efforts to reduce the hurdles to ballot access in Virginia for all candidates, I will not support efforts to apply such changes to the 2012 presidential election.”
Cuccinelli was not alone in calling for a change in the law. Last week, Virginia Republican Party Chairman Pat Mullins told CNSNews.com that it was time for the state to change the way presidential candidates get on the ballot in the commonwealth.
Mulllins said that under the terms of the 1998 law, each candidate was required to submit at least 10,000 signatures of registered Virginia voters with at least 400 signatures coming from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. In signing these petitions, voters were promising that they intended to participate in Virginia’s Republican primary. (Virginia voters do not register by party.)
Under the Virginia law, the state board of elections was required to pass the ballot-access petitions on to the chairman of the state Republican Party to certify whether each candidate had fulfilled the requirements of the ballot-access law.
Only four of the Republican presidential candidates -- Romney, Paul, Gingrich and Perry -- submitted signatures seeking access to Virginia’s primary ballot. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman did not submit signatures.
Mullins told CNSNews.com that after he reviewed the petitions of the candidates who had sought ballot access, only Romney and Paul had met the state’s requirements.
Mullins said that the state party had used a computer database to check whether the people who signed the presidential candidates’ ballot-access petitions were in fact registered Virginia voters. Under the law, signatures from people who are not registered voters do not count.
Neither Perry nor Gingrich had obtained 10,000 registered voters as required.
But a former state GOP leader, Charles Judd told CNSNews.com that Virginia Republicans haven’t always checked to see if Virginia’s primary ballots match up with the list of registered voters.
Judd, who is the current head of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said that in 2008, when he was state party executive director, the GOP simply verified that those who circulated petitions for the campaigns had filled them out correctly and that the people who signed the petitions had properly filled out all the information required of them on the petition forms.
Gov. Perry’s lawsuit, which he filed last week in federal district court seeking to get on the Virginia ballot, is scheduled for a Jan. 13 hearing. Santorum, who lost the Iowa caucuses to Mitt Romeny by only eight votes, has announced he will join the Perry suit.
Jon Moseley, an attorney who heads a Tea Party organization in Fairfax County, Va., filed a lawsuit in the state Circuit Court in Richmond, Va., seeking to force the state to put Gingrich on the primary ballot.