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Cuccinelli backtracks on ballot access issue

Monday - 1/2/2012, 11:37am  ET

RICHMOND, Va. - Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is no longer pushing for an immediate change to rules that kept two candidates off Virginia's Republican presidential primary ballot.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry failed to submit the required 10,000 signatures of registered voters. They've gone to court to challenge their exclusion from Virginia's ballot, which at this point will include only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Critics say Virginia's requirements are too strict, but state GOP leaders say candidates knew the rules well in advance.

Cuccinelli said in a statement Saturday that ballot access laws need to be changed not for any candidate or party, but for the voters. He backtracked Sunday, saying there's no way to change the rules for the March 6 primary and still be fair to the candidates who already qualified.

"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," the Republican officeholder said.

"I do not change position on issues of public policy often or lightly," he added. "But when convinced that my position is wrong, I think it necessary to concede as much and adjust accordingly."

Several Republican presidential hopefuls say Virginia should put their names on the GOP primary ballot despite their failure to meet state requirements.

Last week, Perry claimed in a lawsuit that Virginia's requirement of 10,000 signatures by registered voters, with 400 from each of its 11 congressional districts, violates his freedom of speech.

Lawyers for Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum joined Perry in asking the Virginia State Board of Elections and the Republican Party of Virginia to be added to the ballot.


(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)