The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Earlier today, in Correll v. Herring a federal district court in Virginia held that provisions of Virginia law that purport to bind state delegates to a national party convention to vote in accordance with the state's primary are unconstitutional. Specifically the court found that such provisions impose a "severe burden" on the First Amendment speech and associational rights of convention delegates and political parties and cannot survive strict scrutiny.
According to the court, state laws that purport to restrict or control how political parties select their candidates impose severe First Amendment burdens, particularly where (as here) such laws are enforced with criminal sanctions. The Republican Party may adopt rules governing how delegates may vote, and the extent to which delegates are bound by the results of state primaries and nominating conventions, but state governments may not.
Under this decision, Virginia's delegates to the Republican convention will only be bound to support Donald Trump's nomination if a rule to such effect is adopted by the delegates to the convention. In other words, this is a question for the Republican Party to decide, and not a matter under the control of state legislatures.
The Trump campaign is celebrating the decision as a win because it reaffirms that delegates are (and can be) bound by convention rules, yet totally ignores that a) the decision permanently enjoins enforcement of the Virginia law binding delegates, and b) the convention rules can be changed by the convention delegates.