WASHINGTON Texas Governor Rick Perry filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday seeking to get on Virginia's 2012 primary election ballot after failing to qualify by last week's deadline.
The Republican presidential candidate failed to get the 10,000 verifiable signatures, including at least 400 qualified voters from each congressional district, required to be in the March 6 primary.
Perry is challenging the state's qualification process on constitutional grounds, saying it restricts the access of Virginia voters to the candidates of their choosing.
Virginia's ballot access requirements are among the most onerous in the nation and severely restrict who may obtain petition signatures, the Perry campaign said in a statement.
"Gov. Perry greatly respects the citizens and history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and believes Virginia Republicans should have greater access to vote for one of the several candidates for President of the United States," Perry campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan said.
"We believe that the Virginia provisions unconstitutionally restrict the rights of candidates and voters by severely restricting access to the ballot," Sullivan said.
"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," he said.
The Perry lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond, names members of the state's board of elections and the head of the state Republican party as defendants.
The Republican Party also said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Virginia resident, failed to meet the ballot qualification requirement.
Three other members of the Republican field trying to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama - former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum - did not meet the Thursday deadline for submitting petitions.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul qualified for the March primary in Virginia.
(Reporting By JoAnne Allen; Editing by Paul Simao)