SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - In a revolt against Romney, at least 40 more national convention delegates asked to join 123 previous plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Republican National Committee, and their attorney said hundreds more may soon follow suit.
The first 123 delegates, all from the 9th Circuit, sued
the RNC, its Chairman Rince Priebus, and every state party chairman in the 9th Circuit in Federal Court on Monday, demanding the right to vote for the candidate of their choice on every ballot at the Republican National Convention, including the first.
The delegates claim the party violated federal law by forcing them to sign loyalty affidavits, under threat of perjury, to vote for Mitt Romney, though he is not yet the official nominee.
They also claimed that state party chairmen are fixing elections at state conventions and changing ballots so that all votes cast count for Romney.
"When nominating someone for a federal office, all delegates must be free to vote their conscience," Richard Gilbert, of Gilbert & Marlowe, attorney for the delegates, told Courthouse News in an interview Thursday.
"They don't want to be bound to any candidate, or even be forced to vote for the nominee," Gilbert said. "To have a real convention, the delegates must have free will so that when they meet, they can persuade each other and then decide who to vote for."
Gilbert said that the public is unaware that the party is rigging elections and committing voting fraud. But he said he has more than 100 signed affidavits from delegates to support these allegations.
"Some campaigns act like organized crime syndicates - and I mean organized crime, no doubt about it," Gilbert said.
"In Arizona, the voting machines were rigged so that Ron Paul votes were counted as Mitt Romney votes. It was so intentional that a Romney delegate refused to certify the vote count, and for that he got thrown off the convention."
The Party's Rule 11 prevents changing rules within 30 days of a convention, but Gilbert said that chairmen and organizers often change rules the day before a convention - and sometimes in the middle of one - to deny a quorum or rig an outcome.
The delegates say in their complaint that the defendants threatened violence against those who don't support Romney, and had men in dark clothing come to conventions and physically remove people who refuse to vote for him.
"I have nothing against Romney's politics, it's his behavior," Gilbert said. "He's the one who chose to run his campaign based on intimidation and violate federal law."
Gilbert said this is the first time in 30 years that the issue has been brought before the court.
"It's really serious," he said. "People don't realize that delegates aren't chosen on the Tuesday primaries like they think.
"For example, Ron Paul got 16 of the 19 delegates in Massachusetts, which is a pretty serious vote of no-confidence in Romney from his own state, but I know that my friends and family aren't aware of this."
Gilbert said he wants to get the case heard as soon as possible so that all rightfully elected delegates are seated at the National Convention in August, and are free to vote for the candidate of their choice.
"The hour is late and short, but we won't just stand by and let the Republican National Convention get away with disenfranchising voters," Gilbert said.
"I'd love to line up all the criminals and take them on a perp walk through court."
The case will be heard by U.S. Judge David Carter, though no hearing dates have been set because more than 100 defendants need to be served. Gilbert described Carter as a strict judge, who is fair and honest.
"If the judge rules in our favor, I won't be surprised if three or four new candidates, say Sarah Palin, jump in and say they want to be considered," Gilbert said.
"It will be the most interesting national convention in my lifetime if the judge rules for us on this."
Legally, the case may hinge on whether the judge accepts the plaintiffs' claim that the nominating convention is a "federal" election. Courts have traditionally given the two major political parties considerable leeway in managing their own affairs, for instance, in whether state parties may hold open or closed primaries.