A federal judge on Thursday rejected an effort by Donald Trump supporters to block the use of a party loyalty pledge in Virginia’s Republican presidential primary on March 1.

In her decision, U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that voters would suffer “irreparable harm” by signing a party affiliation statement before receiving a ballot on Super Tuesday, as Trump’s supporters argued.

The testimony “does not support the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction” against including the requirement on instructions for ballots issued on election day or absentee ballots mailed to registered voters outside the state, Lauck ruled.

The lawsuit, filed this month in the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of three pastors who support Trump, stems from the state Republican Party’s decision in September to require voters to sign a “statement of intent” before taking part in the primary.

The pledge, already on ballot instructions printed across the state, reads: “My signature below indicates I am a Republican.”


That idea, which has been proposed several times in recent years, has caused controversy in Virginia, one of about 14 states that hold “open primary” elections in which voters do not register by party.

Trump elevated the issue to national significance when he called the pledge a “suicidal mistake” that would turn away voters who are disenchanted with traditional party politics — many of whom support his presidential bid.

This might be the one and only time I ever agree with Donald Trump.  If Virginians don’t have to register by party, then this pledge seems to be a tactic to circumvent the law by forcing voters to mini-register their party.  Is it binding?  No one follows you into the voting booth.

On the other hand, I know that party members often check out who has what sign in their yard.  woe be unto someone who has voted in the Republican primary if there is a Democratic sign in the yard.  Not good.

It seems to me that there are safeguards in this primary.  Why would a Democrat throw out their own vote to go cause problems in the Republican primary?  Both primaries are held on the same day.  It makes no sense.

Why would anyone want to “pledge” to vote Republican (or Democratic for that matter)?  It seems silly and childish to me, regardless of who is doing it.  As an independent, it  just seems like an exclusive act—one meant to cut everyone else out of the process.  It’s another way of saying–“you don’t belong.”

5 Thoughts to “Trump efforts to suppress GOP pledge fail in court”

  1. Steve Thomas

    I am glad the effort failed. The “statement of affiliation” approved by the State Board differs much from the “Loyalty Oath” used in party-run contests. Whereas the latter would say something to the effect of “By my signature, I affirm that I am in accord with the principles of the Republican Party of Virginia, and pledge to support the party’s nominees in the General Election”, the former reads “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.”. Although neither are legally binding, the statement of affiliation doesn’t place the voter in the position of having promised to support the eventual nominee.

    That doesn’t mean that I have changed my position regarding oaths or statements being required when the chosen method of nomination is a state-run primary, although Virginia election law permits such requirements. Fine for a Convention, Mass Meeting, or Canvass…all exclusively party events, but not for an open primary, in a state that does not have voter-registration by party. Lot’s of states have closed primaries, and registration by party, and have had this for years. Maybe it is an idea whose time has come, for Virginia.

  2. Scout

    The relief sought was a preliminary injunction. These are very hard to get. The judge’s rejection doesn’t really go to the merits of the challenge, it goes to whether the court should assert an extraordinary remedy to halt the requirement before there has been a trial or other process on the merits. I have no idea whether the Trump backers will continue to pursue the matter, having lost their first shot at getting the “extraordinary remedy.”

    However, I tend to agree with Steve that this affirmation, however stupid, is virtually meaningless and is far short of a “loyalty oath”. It clearly was designed as a sop to the anti-primary forces within RPV, but it sure doesn’t serve much of a function other than to hang a sin around RPVs neck that it is without a clue about what political parties are all about.

    On a pure semantic level, I have no idea what an individual is supposed to be signifying when he/she signs a document saying my signature “indicates that I am a Republican.” In slang, informal contexts, some of us might say that “I am a Republican.” I’ve probably said that now and then. But what that really means is that we tend to support Republican candidates through contributions and/or at the ballot box, more than we support other candidates. The verb “to be” doesn’t really seem to apply here. How we tend to express ourselves politically over time is a series of individual acts, not an immutable essence of our humanity. That’s because we are not an ideological nation, and our two major parties are essentially, when they function at their best, entities that compete to find capable candidates who can provide solutions to problems in a democratic Republic.

    1. The absentee ballot doesn’t match the at the polls ballot either. They are already printed.

      Neither is as draconian as I thought. “I am a Republican” really doesn’t mean squat.

  3. Scout

    in previous comment “sin” should read “sign” I usually don’t bother to correct typos, but in this case, some folks could rationally infer that I meant “sin”. Now that I look back at it, perhaps I did, subconsciously.

  4. Starryflights

    If he wants to be the republican nominee from Virginia, Mr Trump must respect the party’s rules.

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