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Gingrich, rivals join suit against Virginia ballot rules

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry campaigns at the Blue Strawberry Coffee Company in Cedar Rapids
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry campaigns at the Blue Strawberry Coffee Company in Cedar Rapids

ATLANTIC, Iowa (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidates who were unable to meet Virginia's requirements to qualify for the state's 2012 primary election joined a lawsuit on Saturday to get on the ballot.

Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul managed to submit the required 10,000 verifiable signatures collected by registered voters in the state in order to get on Virginia's ballot for its March 6 primary.

One of the casualties was Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who was particularly embarrassed because he lives in northern Virginia.

Gingrich, along with other candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman joined a lawsuit already filed by Rick Perry against Virginia's Board of Elections.

"The challenge in Virginia isn't about the candidates and it is about the voters," Gingrich said. "For the voters in Virginia to be told that ... their options are limited to two people who between them are clearly a minority of the Republican voters is probably unacceptable."

At the same time, Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, told Fox News he is planning to file emergency legislation to loosen the requirements to get on the ballot.

"Recent events have underscored that our system is deficient," Cuccinelli said in a statement to Fox.

Gingrich said he was glad Perry, Bachmann, Santorum and Huntsman were all involved in the suit.

"All five of us are saying ... this should not be a gauntlet to figure out how you can make it virtually impossible to run for president," Gingrich said. "This ought to be a system that enables the voters to decide who they would like to have run for president."

(Reporting By Jeff Mason; writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Trott)