Discuss as:

Rick Perry sues Virginia to get on primary ballot

Charlie Riedel / AP

Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a campaign stop at the Main Street Cafe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Tuesday.

After failing to secure a spot in Virginia's presidential primary, the presidential campaign of Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday filed a federal court challenge to the state's stringent ballot access rules.

Perry was one of several candidates, including Newt Gingrich, who failed to gather 10,000 individual voters' signatures by Friday's deadline. 

"We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot, and we hope to have those provisions overturned or modified to provide greater ballot access to Virginia voters and the candidates seeking to earn their support," said Perry communications director Ray Sullivan in a statement. 

Perry's lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a state law that says those who circulate petitions to get a candidate on the ballot must be eligible, or registered, to vote in the state. Perry claims that requirement violates his freedom of speech and association.

He also challenges another provision of Virginia law that requires that a portion of signatures for statewide candidates must come from each congressional district in the state. Those signers must attest that they intended to vote in the primary of the candidate's political party.

Perry's campaign notes that other states' laws similar to Virginia's ban on out-of-state petition circulators have been struck down by federal courts.

One of the nation's leading experts on election law predicted tough going for Perry's challenge.

"Such a suit now faces long odds, both legally and politically," said Prof. Rick Hasen of the University of California at Irvine Schoool of law.

The initial hurdle, Hasen explained, is the failure to bring suit before filing time. "This is an emergency of Perry's (and Gingrich's) own making. Surely they knew of the requirement earlier," he said.

Hasen said the federal courts have reached mixed decisions on residency requirements for petition circulators. 

Sullivan told NBC News on Friday that the campaign planned to review "the facts and the law to determine whether an appeal or challenge is warranted." 

In a statement released to press Tuesday, the Perry campaign argued that the Virginia rules are "onerous" and deny both candidates and voters their 1st and 14th amendment rights "to meaningfully participate in the political process." 

The Virginia contest is scheduled for March 6. 

NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams reported from Washington. NBC News correspondent Carrie Dann reported from Osceola, Iowa.