Trump first to qualify for Virginia GOP ballot

Donald Trump's presidential campaign is the first to submit the necessary signatures to qualify for Virginia's March 1st GOP primary ballot.

In a press release, the Republican Party of Virginia noted Trump's petitions "passed the pre-check process, indicating there are sufficient signatures to meet the 5,000 statewide and 200 per Congressional District requirements of Virginia law."

Along with its signatures, the Trump campaign issued a statement in which the candidate said he was "proud to be the first Republican candidate to complete this important step in qualifying for the ballot well ahead of the deadline."

Republican Party of Virginia communication director David D'Onofrio told AMI Newswire the other 14 GOP presidential contenders are still gathering their signatures, which are due Dec. 10.

"The majority of other campaigns have reached out to the RPV to start the pre-check of their petitions," said D'Onofrio. "We think most will qualify for the ballot."

That would be a change from 2012, when only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul qualified for the primary ballot. In 2012, state law required candidates to submit 10,000 signatures from registered voters, with 400 from each congressional district.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who filed only 6,000 of the then-required 10,000 signatures, was joined by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in filing a lawsuit in federal court against the ballot access law, alleging it violated his 1st and 14th Amendment rights, as well as challenging the requirement that petition circulators be eligible or registered to vote in Virginia.

U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney agreed with the plaintiffs that the requirements were likely unconstitutional. But he ruled against them on the grounds they knew what the requirements were months in advance, but only sued after they had failed to meet them.

The General Assembly cut the signature requirements in half after the debacle. Petition circulators no longer need to be Virginia residents, either.

"There will be no repeat of 2012," D'Onofrio said.

Even though Trump is the first to file his petitions, it is no guarantee he will be at the top of the primary ballot. D'Onofrio says the list of choices will be determined by a lottery drawing held at Republican Party headquarters in Richmond on Dec.17.