Two veterans and dedicated grassroots activists filed suit against the Republican Party of Virginia in the US District Court in Harrisonburg. They were ejected from the Party and banned from participating in Party run elections.
A statement from their lawyer Charlie King of Loudoun County was released last week and is copied and pasted below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2017
VETERANS FILE 1983 CIVIL RIGHTS SUIT AGAINST REPUBLICAN PARTY OF VIRGINIA TO GAIN RETURN OF VOTING RIGHTS
Contact: Charles L. King, Esq., 116 G Edwards Ferry Road, Leesburg, VA 20176,
(703) 669-3500, (703) 669-3525, firstname.lastname@example.org
On March 12, 2017, Colonels Jay L. Marts and Dana Newcomb, two retired veterans filed a 1983 voting rights suit against the Republican Party of Virginia in the United States District Court in Harrisonburg, Virginia, seeking return of their right to vote in party nomination contests. Both men live in Frederick County, Virginia.
Jay L. Marts served twenty-eight years in the United States Army. Dana L. Newcomb, a West Point graduate, is a disabled veteran who served in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
The Plaintiffs were banned from the Republican Party for four years under Article I of the Republican Party Plan, the bylaws for Virginia’s Republican Party. The Article I sanction is an automatic four year ban on party membership, voting in candidate nominating contests and running for office as a Republican. Article I also bans persons who have participated in the nomination contest of another party within five years from voting in Republican Party candidate contests.
Article I sanctions are imposed after a person participates in a party run candidate nomination process, signs a loyalty oath and then publically supports an opposition candidate.
Marts and Newcomb attended a Frederick County Mass Meeting to nominate county officials on April 27, 2015. After the Mass Meeting, both men supported independent candidates by Facebook posts, letters to the editor and making small contributions.
The Frederick County Republican Committee has a long history of in-fighting.
A petition to impose Article I sanctions on the Plaintiffs and eight others was filed with the Frederick County Republican Committee. The committee declined to impose sanctions. The decision not to impose sanctions was appealed to the Tenth District Republican Committee.
On July 25, 2016, the Tenth District Republican Committee responded by dissolving the Frederick County Committee, removing the Chairman and imposing Article I sanctions. The Plaintiffs appealed.
On August 27, 2016, the Republican State Central Committee upheld the actions of the Tenth District Committee.
King was critical of Republican Party Chairman John Whitbeck: “I tried to settle this quietly with Chairman Whitbeck. I got nowhere. These days I’d expected Mr. Whitbeck to have a more sensitive ear and appreciate the effort to resolve this privately.”
King continued: “Didn’t we just elect a Republican President who campaigned on helping veterans?”
King said: “One of my clients is permanently disabled from his service related injuries. This man literally sacrificed his body to protect us. Now John Whitbeck says my client, a retired full colonel, can’t vote because of Facebook posts and a letter to the editor!”
King called the Article I sanctions “unconstitutional, an illegal prior restraint on speech and just a bad rule. It’s not clear when the punishment starts or stops. What if the Republican Party unknowingly nominated a white supremacist? Would party members be forced to choose between supporting a repugnant candidate and political purgatory? There is no notice. No chance to defend yourself. No way to reapply early.”
King asked: “Where did the four year ban come from? Why not just make it ten years or better yet, for life? Wouldn’t that be easier?”
King urged readers to view the Party Plan on the Party‘s website: “I’m not making this up. I’m not spinning.”
King said his clients do not dispute the allegations made against them or the party’s right to discipline them: “You can kick them out of the party, but you can’t stop them from voting in party nomination contests. It’s power delegated from the state. Voting at a party convention is the same as voting at the school or community center.”
The suit asks the Article I sanctions be declared unconstitutional and for an injunction against their enforcement.
The Republican Party of Virginia, the Virginia Board of Elections and the Frederick County Republican Party are named as defendants.
King said he will also file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.
The case number is 5:17 cv000022 and the suit may be viewed or downloaded on the Court’s PACER system.
Copies of the pleadings with exhibits are available upon request.