Three African American pastors who support Donald Trump filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday over a requirement that GOP primary voters sign a statement affirming that they are Republicans — a plan the presidential front-runner has condemned. The plaintiffs say the loyalty pledge will discourage minority voters and those who are poor from casting ballots in Virginia, where voters do not register by party. Signing the vow will create long lines at the polls, imposes “the burden of fear and backlash” and amounts to a literacy test, according to the lawsuit. The Virginia Republican Party recently decided voters who want to help choose the Republican presidential nominee must first sign a statement that says: “My signature below indicates I am a Republican.”
Virginia Beach attorney Chester Smith said his clients — Stephen A. Parson Sr., Bruce L. Waller Sr. and Leon Benjamin — are Richmond-area pastors who decline to say if they have supported Democrats in the past. The complaint was filed in Newport News, but it will be heard in Richmond, he said.
“I imagine they ascribe to a lot of the message that Donald Trump brings and . . . the idea of making the country great again and making values important again,” Smith said.
The lawsuit names the three members of Virginia’s Board of Elections as defendants because they finalized and will oversee the administration of the pledge at the polls. Martin Mash, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Elections, declined comment.