Donald Trump supporters have lost the first round in their battle to prevent the Republican Party from requiring voters to sign a statement of GOP affiliation before casting ballots in Virginia’s presidential primary. U.S. District Judge Hannah M. Lauck refused Thursday to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the plan, clearing the way for Virginia election officials to finish mailing absentee ballots by Saturday’s deadline. As it now stands, Virginians voting in person in the March 1 GOP primary also will have to complete a form stating: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.” Three black pastors who support Trump claim in a lawsuit that the “loyalty oath” violates their civil and free-speech rights. Those claims remain to be decided, although time is running short. No trial date has been scheduled.
In a four-page order denying the request for a preliminary injunction, Lauck said the plaintiffs at this early stage have failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their constitutional claims. However, she said the case “raises matters of significant concern” about the Virginia State Board of Elections’ duties to avoid voter confusion and run an orderly election.
The plaintiffs argue that most black voters would refuse to sign the statement, and those that do would face a backlash in their communities. They also contend that confusion or disputes over the statement would result in long lines at the polls, further deterring people from voting.
Lauck said she would issue an opinion further explaining her reasons for denying the preliminary injunction soon.