This court case is certainly a blow for Donald Trump.
Earlier today a federal judge ruled unconstitutional a Virginia law that bound all delegates to Donald Trump as the winner of the Commonwealth’s primary. The law made it a crime to not vote for the winner of the primary. Virginia delegate Carroll Boston “Beau” Correll, Jr. filed suit in federal court.
Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Payne ruled that, “Correll is entitled to judgment that Section 545(D) is an unconstitutional burden on his First Amendment rights of free political speech and political association. Therefore, the Court so declares and will enter judgment on that score on his behalf on Counts I and 11.” Payne added, “the Commonwealth will be permanently enjoined from enforcing Va. Code § 24.2-545(0).”
Is this case a full victory for the #FreeTheDelegates movement, or is it a narrow victory that just applies to the Commonwealth of Virginia? Correll sees it as a victory and blow against Donald Trump. In an emailed statement, Correll said, ““Delegates are free to vote their conscience and no amount of intimidation by the Trump campaign or meddling by Democrats in the Republican process will change that fact. Requiring delegates to vote for any candidate is unconstitutional and today’s announcement is a blow to Trump’s efforts.”
Payne was clear that the rules of the Republican Party both at the national and state level are what should be followed. What he ruled against was that Virginia law governing free association. This undercuts Donald Trump’s claim that delegates are required “by law to vote for him.”
In an emailed statement Correll’s attorney, David Rivkin, Jr. said, “Today’s decision should give comfort to all delegates that they cannot be punished for voting their conscience at the Republican National Convention.” Rivkin added, “The Court’s decision follows more than 40 years of precedent in firmly rejecting Donald Trump’s legal opinion that delegates are obligated by law to vote for him. The law is clear: delegates enjoy the same freedom of speech and freedom of association that the First Amendment guarantees to all Americans.”
The #DelegatesUnbound movement has stated that the Republican Party rules already have a conscience clause in them. It has argued that this case means that all delegates are free to vote their conscience without fear of criminal ramifications. While the case was based just on Virginia law, #DelegatesUnbound believes that 20 similar state laws that require binding based on primary results are also unconstitutional. The movement contends that all delegates are now unbound.
AJ Spker, the former Chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and co-founder of the organization known as “Delegates Unbound”told Conservative Revew that, “today Judge Payne vindicated the right of all delegates to vote their conscience without the threat of government coercion. This is consistent with both the First Amendment and the Republican Party’s longstanding rules forbidding the binding of delegates.”
NBC News’ Alexandra Jaffe reported, via Twitter, that Trump’s campaign is weighing whether to appeal the decision.
Delegates Unbound’s Mark Lee told Conservative Review that the ruling is a necessary building block in their fight to allow every delegate to vote their conscience at the convention.
If the #FreeTheDelegates movement is not successful in getting a new set of rules voted on at the start of the GOP convention, which explicitly unbinds the delegates, Delegates Unbound has stated they are going to fight to enforce what they say is a longstanding conscience clause.
Lee also confirmed that an earlier Jaffe report that the Delegates Unbound whip team had identified over 1237 delegates who are against Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican Party.
Things just got interesting.