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Gingrich, Perry fail to qualify for GOP primary ballot in Virginia

By Steve Brusk, CNN
December 24, 2011 -- Updated 2120 GMT (0520 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Virginia state law prohibits voters from writing in candidates in primaries
  • Gingrich and Perry fail to collect the 10,000 signatures needed, the Virginia GOP says
  • The deadline to file petitions with the Virginia State Board of Elections was Thursday
  • Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have qualified for the primary ballot in Virginia, the state GOP says

Washington (CNN) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich failed to collect enough signatures to appear on the Virginia primary ballot, the Republican Party of Virginia announced Saturday morning, leaving the longtime Virginia resident without a place on the state's ballot and raising questions about his campaign's organization.

Gingrich, as well as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, did not meet the state's requirement of 10,000 signatures and, therefore, did not qualify for the ballot, the Virginia GOP said via Twitter.

The state GOP announced Perry's failure to qualify late Friday.

Gingrich's campaign responded with some strong words in a statement Saturday, saying the process to qualify for the ballot is "a failed system."

"Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates," campaign director Michael Krull said in the statement. "We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice."

However, Virginia state law specifically prohibits voters from writing in candidates not on the ballot in primary elections.

The news from the Virginia Republicans is a significant setback for Gingrich, who clamored earlier this week to gather enough voter signatures in the state. Gingrich utilized paid staffers to comb Virginia, asking voters to sign petitions that would allow him a place on the ballot.

On Wednesday, Gingrich assured a crowd of supporters he had met the threshold for appearing on the ballot, saying he had gathered anywhere from 12,000 to 14,000 signatures.

Virginia requires candidates to obtain 10,000 signatures from registered voters, with at least 400 signatures coming from each of the commonwealth's 11 congressional districts.

Gingrich's spokesman said Wednesday the effort to secure a spot on the Virginia ballot was meant to showcase the campaign's ground game.

"It's a demonstration that Gingrich is outrunning Romney in states beyond Iowa," said press secretary R.C. Hammond.

Gingrich and his wife, Callista, have resided in McLean, Virginia, an upscale suburb of Washington, for several years. Callista Gingrich is active in Northern Virginia organizations, including playing the French horn in a Fairfax, Virginia, band.

Gingrich and Perry were among four candidates who submitted ballot petitions to the Virginia State Board of Elections on Thursday, which was the deadline to file. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul also submitted petitions.

The state party spent Friday verifying that the submitted petitions met the requirements to appear on the ballot. The Virginia GOP said on its Twitter page Friday that Romney and Paul had both submitted enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

Virginia holds its Republican primary on March 6. At stake in the primary are 49 delegates.

CNN's Kevin Liptak and Robert Yoon contributed to this report.

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