RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal appeals court rejected Rick Perry's last-ditch bid to be placed on Virginia's Republican presidential primary ballot Tuesday, agreeing with a lower court that the Texas governor and three other candidates waited too late to challenge the state's ballot qualifying law.
Perry sued last month after failing to submit enough signatures to get on the March 6 ballot.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Ron Santorum and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman also failed to qualify and joined the lawsuit.
Virginia requires candidates to submit 10,000 voter signatures, including at least 400 from each of the state's 11 congressional districts, to demonstrate that they have enough support to be considered serious contenders.
The law also allows only Virginia residents to circulate candidate petitions. U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney said Friday that while the residency requirement for petition circulators is probably unconstitutional, the candidates waited too long to complain, threatening to disrupt Virginia's electoral process.
Perry appealed, but a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Gibney.
"Movant had every opportunity to challenge the various Virginia ballot requirements at a time when the challenge would not have created the disruption that this last-minute lawsuit has," the panel wrote in a 22-page order.
"If we were to grant the requested relief, we would encourage candidates for President who knew the requirements and failed to satisfy them to seek at a tardy and belated hour to change the rules of the game," the judges wrote.
Joseph M. Nixon, an attorney for Perry, said the campaign is weighing its appeal options.
"An orderly ballot access process is important, but of little significance if viable candidates are unconstitutionally kept off the ballot," Nixon said.
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli said: "I am pleased with the Fourth Circuit ruling and that Virginia's orderly election process will be able to move forward."
Only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul qualified for the Virginia ballot.
The head of the State Board of Elections testified at a hearing Friday that it would be virtually impossible to add four more names to the ballot and still make a Jan. 21 legal deadline for printing and mailing absentee ballots to overseas and military voters.
The appeals court said Perry knew about Virginia's residency requirement for petition circulators when he announced his candidacy on Aug. 13, and he "had every incentive to challenge the requirement at that time."
A successful challenge would have allowed him to maximize the number of people gathering signatures, the court said. "Nevertheless, he chose to sit on his right to challenge this provision until after he had been denied a place on the ballot," the judges wrote.
Unlike Gibney, the appeals court did not comment on the constitutionality of the residency requirement because Perry's tardiness in bringing the lawsuit was enough to deny his request for a court order adding him to the ballot.