A federal judge today found that the law establishing Virginia’s presidential primary, which took effect for the first time in 2000, impermissibly conflicts with the Rules of the Republican Party, and thus has enjoined its application to the 2016 Virginia delegation to the Republican National Convention.
Judge Robert Payne, sitting in the Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond), held that the statute cannot be used to block efforts by Beau Correll, an RNC delegate from Virginia’s 10th Congressional District), and others who wish to vote for someone other than presumptive nominee Donald Trump.
The core of the dispute involved the provision of the Virginia law that required winner-take-all allocation of delegates based on the results of the March 1 primary. However, this conflicted with RNC rules, which provided that any primary taking place prior to March 15 had to adopt proportional allocation. In these situations, Supreme Court precedent clearly indicates that party rules take precedence under the First Amendment.
This ruling was expected by writers at The Bull Elephant. It breaks no new ground legally. In terms of its impact on the upcoming convention, it changes nothing from a practical perspective, as RNC routinely ignores unenforceable state laws like Virginia’s. However, the publicity surrounding this case will undoubtedly give a momentum boost to the groups seeking to ensure delegates in Cleveland can vote their consciences, rather than how state law or state party rules dictate.
More analysis and explanation of this decision will be forthcoming from The Bull Elephant‘s team of legal analysts in the next few hours. In the meantime, the full 65-page opinion is embedded below.
UPDATE: TBE’s own Paul Prados has more analysis here.