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poll workers wait for voters in virginia on super tuesday Poll workers in Virginia wait for voters inside of Henrico County's empty Ridge precinct inside Tuckahoe Middle Scool in Richmond, Virginia, on Super Tuesday. (Photo: AP Photo/ Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dean Hoffmeyer)

Election 2012: Not Much Choice in Virginia

Voters stay home as two of the four candidates are kept off ballot

By Edward Zhou | March 7 , 2012

Virginia was one of the states that held a primary election on Super Tuesday. But unlike the 10 other contests across the country, there were only two candidates on the Virginia ballot.

Because of strict rules and procedures, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were the only choices voters had.

Voters responded by staying home. Early returns put voter turnout in Virginia at 5 percent.

The reason Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum weren't on the Virginia ballot is because they didn't turn in the necessary paperwork. In order to make the Virginia ballot, a candidate must collect 10,000 valid signatures from voters. Gingrich, Santorum, and other candidates no longer in the race failed to collect those signatures.

Gingrich, along with former candidate Rick Perry, filed legal challenges to get onto the ballot. But those challenges were rejected by the federal courts.

"Voters deserve the right to vote for any top contender, especially leading candidates," Michael Krull, Gingrich's campaign director, said in a statement. "We will work with the Republican Party of Virginia to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign to make sure that all the voters of Virginia are able to vote for the candidate of their choice."

Virginians couldn't cast write-in votes for other candidates because that was prohibited by primary rules, too.

This was a big setback for the Gingrich campaign. Ahead of Super Tuesday, Gingrich was leading Romney in some polls. And with Virginia worth 49 delegates, it could have been a crucial state for Gingrich to win. But by not being on the ballot, Gingrich earned zero delegates.

Gingrich and his wife Callista live in Virginia. But to protest the state's primary ballot, they refused to vote.

"In this Republican primary, when given a choice between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, they could not pick either one," Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told NBC News.

While Gingrich and Perry complained in the courts about the Virginia primary procedures, others defended them.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said that the primary process in his state is fair.

"As I've said many times, if you're going to be president of the United States, you ought to be able to get 10,000 signatures in Virginia," Governor McDonnell has explained.

When the polls closed in Virginia, Romney had won the state with 59.5 percent of the vote. It was one of six states Romney won on Super Tuesday. Gingrich, meanwhile, won just one: his home state of Georgia.

The Scholastic News Kids Press Corps is on the campaign trail. Kid Reporters are covering Super Tuesday from five states. Check out the Super Tuesday Special Report for their stories.

ELECTION 2012

Scholastic News Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail! Keep up with latest election news on the Election 2012 website.

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