By Randy Rose
Over 120 delegates to the Republican National Convention are suing the GOP to be free from voting for Romney on the first ballot for Presidential Nominee, and are arguing they have been illegally coerced into choosing Mitt Romney for the party’s presidential nominee and demanding they be “unbound” to vote for another candidate instead.
The federal lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in California demands the delegates be freed to “vote their conscience” for presidential nominee at the party’s August national convention in Tampa, Fla., rather than being “bound” to vote for a certain candidate, as many state party bylaws require, based on the primary elections and other delegate selection procedures. Courthouse News Service reports at least another 40 additional national convention delegates have asked to join the lawsuit which would bring the total to 160 Delegates. The delegates claim the party violated federal law by forcing them to sign loyalty affidavits, under threat of perjury, to vote for Mitt Romney, though he is not yet the official nominee.
“They don’t want to be bound to any candidate, or even be forced to vote for the nominee,” Richard Gilbert, of Gilbert & Marlowe, attorney for the delegates, told Courthouse News. “To have a real convention; the delegates must have free will so that when they meet, they can persuade each other and then decide who to vote for.”
The courts have typically allowed political parties leeway in the nomination of their candidates, but this case asks the court to consider the choice of presidential nominee a “federal election,” subject to laws that would free delegates from party procedures to vote their conscience. Beyond merely asserting delegates’ “right” to vote their conscience, however, the lawsuit asserts the GOP has engaged in a racketeering-like scheme to push Romney as the candidate.
“The Republican National Committee and its chairman have been aiding the Governor Romney campaign for at least six months,” the lawsuit asserts. “The RNC and its chairman, defendant Reince Priebus, have … combined with a particular candidate with all of the aid the RNC can possibly, but improperly give … to obstruct, intimidate and harass delegates from voting their conscience.”
Specifically, the lawsuit charges Republican officials and operatives have used threats of violence, certified unlawful slates of delegates, demanded affidavits of loyalty to Romney under penalty of perjury and have even altered ballot results to make sure the national convention is stacked with delegates who will vote for Romney
“Some campaigns act like organized crime syndicates – and I mean organized crime, no doubt about it,” Gilbert told Courthouse News. “In Arizona, the voting machines were rigged so that Ron Paul votes were counted as Mitt Romney votes. It was so intentional that a Romney delegate refused to certify the vote count, and for that, he got thrown off the convention.”
The plaintiffs are asking the court to order the RNC to inform delegates they can vote for the nominee of their choice, to reinstate delegates who lost their seats at the convention because they refused to sign loyalty affidavits and to recount ballots by hand or hold another convention in areas “where the sanctity of the ballots are untrustworthy.”
Yet striking down party rules that bind candidates to vote in accordance with the primary process could suddenly open up the nomination to another campaign season, as presidential hopefuls could attempt to sway the elected delegates to their side, a potentiality Gilbert recognizes.
“If the judge rules in our favor, I won’t be surprised if three or four new candidates, say Sarah Palin, jump in and say they want to be considered,” Gilbert told Courthouse News. “It will be the most interesting national convention in my lifetime if the judge rules for us on this.”