On May 14, 2012, Ron Paul said that he would stop campaigning for popular votes in primaries. He gave a simple reason: he could no longer afford it. But that did not stop people from running for delegate slots in State conventions. And now, more than 160 of them are suing the Republican National Committee. They want a simple thing: to vote as their consciences dictate.
Ron Paul or Mitt Romney?
The complicated Republican primary rules have set up this fight. Most of those who turned out to vote in Republican primaries, voted for Mitt Romney. So as most people understood the rules, Mitt Romney would win most of the delegates to the Republican National Convention. In theory, each State’s rules bind delegates to vote for a particular candidate on the first ballot. After that first ballot, any delegate may vote as he or she wishes.
But Ron Paul’s supporters knew better. State conventions choose actual delegates by vote of whoever shows up. So Ron Paul loyalists would show up at State conventions and vote for their friends as delegates.
According to a new lawsuit, Republican national officials wouldn’t stand for that. Neither would Mitt Romney’s people.
CNAV reported earlier when a Republican official threatened the Nevada State chairman: Choose Romney loyalists, or lose all your votes. The Nevada State convention chose Ron Paul delegates anyway. But the threats did not stop there.
Plaintiffs allege that in almost every state in the United States Defendants engaged in a scheme to intimidate and harass Delegates who were supporting a Candidate that Defendants did not approve of. This harassment included the use of violence, intimidating demands that Delegates sign affidavits under penalty of perjury with the threat of criminal prosecution for perjury as well as financial penalties and fines if the Delegate fails to vote as instructed by Defendants rather than vote the Delegate’s conscience as mandated by the US Statutes and US Supreme Court Decisions cited.
That “Candidate” is, of course, Ron Paul. The “violence” includes fisticuffs at some State conventions.
Courthouse News Service first reported on Wednesday when 123 delegates sued the RNC. Yesterday, 40 more delegates added their names to the suit. Drew Zahn at WNDpicked up the story also.
In addition to the fisticuffs and the affidavits, the suit also mentions episodes in which State Republican officers changed the rules at the last minute. Some States in fact have two sets of delegates, after frustrated Ron Paul supporters gathered outside the meeting halls to choose their own delegates.
Richard Gilbert, of Gilbert and Marlowe, represents the delegates. He told Courthouse News Service that some Republican officials were acting like gangsters.
The unit rule
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX-14). Photo: US House of Representatives
This new lawsuit mentions the unit rule, an old rule that once bound all delegates from some States to vote for one candidate or another. The 84-page complaint includes a 2008 letter from the RNC counsel’s office. That letter saysspecifically that the national Party rules never force delegates to honor any bond that State rules place on them, to vote any way other than as they wish. Republicans have had this rule since 1964. The letter says that Republicans have always run their conventions this way, no matter what the rules said about delegate binding.
Gilbert also sent the Court a copy of the Party rules.
The convention is an election
Gilbert based his argument on two key parts of federal law:
11 CFR IOO.2(e). It says that a Party caucus or convention is an election if it nominates candidates for federal office.
42 USC 1971. It says that anyone who intimidates someone to get him to vote for or against a candidate for President, is civilly liable. It also says that federal district courts have jurisdiction in such cases.
Gilbert also cited Republican Party Rule 11. That rule forbids the national Party to help any candidate until the national convention nominates that candidate.
The delegates want the Court to:
Say officially that no rule can bind a delegate, and any delegate may vote as he pleases, on any ballot,
Order that the RNC tell every delegate that in writing,
Order all State conventions to keep all records of votes and rule changes, and
Wherever necessary, order hand recounts or even that State parties re-convene to choose delegates.
Zahn suggested that if the Court finds for the plaintiffs, it will unbind all delegates. That could prompt ambitious people to sway the delegates, either at the convention or before they go to it. Sarah Palin is one such person. At least one activist has told CNAV that he would like to see the Republican Party nominate Sarah Palin as a “dark horse” (or, to be correct, dark mare) candidate.