State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: RNC 2016

An Unenviable Choice: Party Loyalty or Voting Your Conscience?

How do we resolve the tension between an individual’s right to vote for who he or she chooses and a political party’s right to set its own rules to govern its proceedings? This conflict was at issue in Correll v. Herring, involving the validity of Virginia election law § 24.2-545 (D).

Political parties in Virginia “have the right to determine the method by which . . .  [they] will select their delegates to the national convention to choose the party’s nominees for President and Vice President of the United States including a presidential primary or another method determined by the party.” Virginia Code § 24.2-545 (A). Under § 24.2-545 (D), party delegates must vote for the candidate who wins the most votes in the party primary (“winner takes all”) if the state party uses a primary election system.  Violation of § 24.2-545 (D) is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

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Republican National Convention: William & Mary Law Student in the Virginia Delegation

William & Mary Law School student Bethany Bostron ‘17 found herself at the center of the storm at the recent Republican Convention in Cleveland. Bostron served as a delegate for Virginia at the Convention. In that role, Bostron assisted in an attempt to petition for a roll call vote that would allow delegates to reject new party rules that consolidated power in the RNC and to have the opportunity to cast a vote for someone other than Trump.  Quoted in USA Today, Bostron expressed a great deal of frustration. “On Monday, I was in charge of collecting signatures for the state of Virginia for a petition for a roll call vote, and I worked hard all Sunday night,” she explained. The next morning they “couldn’t find the secretary so we were hunting all over to find someone to hand [the petition] in to. We got everything in and the establishment just shut us down.”

Bostron’s front-row view of American Democracy illustrates the level of engagement of William & Mary Law students in the election process. Reached after the event, Bostron added… “I am very disappointed that the establishment would not allow delegates to play a role in selecting the rules that the party will operate under for the next four years. However, the experience has motivated me to become even more involved in the party and work to elect leaders who will allow grassroots participation. Outcomes are important, but the process we use to achieve those outcomes also matters.”

Bostron is also the subject of a Washington Post mini-documentary on Virginia delegates. Check it out here (Bostron appears starting at approximately minute 5).

Read the USA Today article quoting Bostron here.

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