Virginia’s Incumbent Protection Act violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the district court properly enjoined Code § 24.2-509(B) in its entirety.
The fourth sentence of § 24.2-509(B)unquestionably poses a severe burden on the associational rights of the Commonwealth’s political parties. The rights protected by subsection (A) are taken away and given instead to a single individual: the incumbent. No matter what method of nomination the party members may prefer, Virginia law decrees that they must give way to the desire of the incumbent to hold a primary if that incumbent was himself selected by primary previously and is seeking re-election. This burden is manifestly severe.
The delegation of power over the party to the incumbent office holder is not narrowly tailored to meet the Commonwealth’s asserted interest. The private interest of an incumbent in winning reelection cannot, and certainly not in the manner chosen here, predominate over the associational rights of political parties.
The other provisions are, if anything, even more offensive to the First Amendment; thus, the district court properly enjoined the entire statute.