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Gingrich, Perry Off Virginia's Primary Ballot

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, Newt Gingrich, right, during the Republican debate, in Des Moines, Iowa, December 10, 2011.

The Republican Party in the U.S. state of Virginia says Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry will not be on the ballot for Virginia's primary election on March 6.

Presidential hopefuls must present voters' petitions to earn state recognition of their candidacies. Republican officials said Perry and Gingrich failed to produce enough valid voters' signatures on their documents, so they can not be listed on ballots prepared by the state.

The news comes as a blow to both candidates, particularly Gingrich, who lives just outside Washington in a Virginia suburb. He has been seen as a frontrunner in the race.

Two other candidates, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, did qualify to run in the primary.

Virginia is seen as an important "swing state" where neither party dominates, making it an battleground that could help decide the outcome of the general election next November.

To qualify for a position on a primary election ballot in Virginia, a candidate must present 10,000 valid voters' signatures, and that total must include at least 400 voters from each of the state's 11 congressional districts. Both the Gingrich and Perry campaigns had said they collected well over 11,000 signatures.

Gingrich's and Perry's supporters could organize "write-in" campaigns to get votes in the primary election, but such efforts by candidates not on a state's official ballot are difficult and often unsuccessful.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.