The office of Attorney General Mark R. Herring is asking a federal court to reject a lawsuit filed by a Virginia delegate to the Republican National Convention who wants legal permission to break party rules and vote against Donald Trump.
The state’s response, filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, argues Winchester attorney Carroll Correll Jr. lacks standing and waited too long to file the suit with the national convention in Cleveland just weeks away.
“Before his election as a delegate, Correll knew the party’s rules and knew the primary results,” Assistant Attorney General Anna T. Birkenheier wrote in the state’s response. “He stood for election anyway, yet now seeks to undo the party’s and the voters’ choices.”
In the lawsuit filed last week, Correll, a Republican activist elected in April as a convention delegate from the 10th Congressional District, claims his constitutional rights are violated by a Virginia law binding convention delegates to cast their votes based on the results of the party primary. Correll said he’s concerned he could face legal action by Trump or his allies if he votes his conscience and supports someone other than Trump.
With many Republicans still reluctant to embrace Trump as the party’s standard-bearer, some are holding out hope to outmaneuver Trump’s forces at the convention and nominate an alternative presidential candidate.
All of Virginia’s 49 delegates are bound to vote according to primary results on the convention’s first ballot. Trump’s first-place finish in Virginia’s March 1 primary entitles him to 17 delegate votes, with the rest of the votes distributed proportionately among other candidates who have dropped out. After narrowly losing to Trump in Virginia, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has 16 delegates on the first ballot.
Correll filed the suit as a class action on behalf of other Virginia delegates to the Republican convention.
Eight other Republican delegates, including some of Trump’s most vocal Virginia supporters such as conservative radio host John Fredericks and former Rep. Virgil H. Goode, have filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, calling it an “eleventh-hour attack” on long-standing election law.
“Plaintiff asserts the state is burdening his constitutional rights by requiring him to vote in accord with the will of the people,” the opposing delegates said in their motion, which the state is not opposing. “But it is plaintiff who is attempting to disenfranchise the good people of Virginia.”
Correll is asking the court to declare the convention voting law unconstitutional and issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction preventing any punitive action against him for casting a vote against Trump, whom Correll has called “unfit to serve.”