Donald Trump speaks at a rally on Jan. 18 at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump may have come in second in the Iowa caucuses, but the presidential candidate scored a victory in Virginia on Thursday when the state Board of Elections formalized the state GOP’s plans to scrap the loyalty pledge.

The board repealed the party’s earlier decision to have voters who want to participate in the March 1 GOP presidential primary sign a statement affirming they were Republicans.

Elections officials say the party bowed to pressure from Trump and voters upset by the pledge; the party says it objected to the wording of the statement.

Trump put the issue on the national radar in December when he publicly rebuked the state Republican Party on Twitter for making what he called a “suicidal mistake” in requiring the pledge. Some feared the pledge could have put off voters disenchanted with party politics who are attracted to Trump’s un­or­tho­dox candidacy.

Activists responded, calling on the party to rescind the pledge in blog posts, letters and an unsuccessful federal lawsuit.

On Saturday, the state party held a special meeting, where the governing board reversed its earlier decision to institute the pledge, and unanimously called for its repeal.

The party blamed the Board of Elections and Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) for reformatting the form voters would have been asked to sign. The form put forth by the state changed the description of the pledge initially offered by the Republican Party.

But Virginia Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés on Thursday blasted the state GOP and said the reversal was a result of voter backlash.

“It’s really frustrating for me to hear you all not accepting responsibility that your decision was to move forward with requiring the statement,” Cortés said. “Now because you see that voters are unhappy with it and you have gotten bad publicity, you have chosen to rescind it and suggest it’s because of some action on our part.”

John Findlay, executive director of the state Republican Party, said the party decided to rescind the pledge because some of the language differed from what was first submitted to the state.

“I really wish the changes that we asked to be made were implemented,” he said. He added that it’s unlikely the party would revert to its earlier position and again require the pledge: “I think that the likelihood of that is exceedingly small, as in 0.00 percent.”

Findlay said the party will not reimburse the state for what elections officials said was $62,000 in printing costs and 150 hours of work by the attorney general’s office.

The pledge approved by the party was written on a full sheet of paper with GOP letterhead. The one the state produced took up a half sheet of paper and edited the description of the law that says the party can condition primary voting on a statement of affiliation. Both versions said: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.”

Clara Belle Wheeler, the only Republican member on the three-member Board of Elections, said most Republicans were unaware of any issue with the forms.

“The reason they voted to repeal this is because they thought that it was not a good idea to do it to begin with — and they came to that meeting to request that it be rescinded because of the inconvenience and perceived confusion that it might cause,” she said.

Donald F. McGahn II, an attorney representing the Trump campaign, expressed support for rescinding the pledge.

“What I’ve heard so far today is, with all due respect, a blame game,” said McGahn, who is a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “In the eyes of the public, we don’t care. We don’t care if it’s the state party’s fault, if it’s the Board of Elections’s fault. We want to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to vote who wants to vote.”

State officials said they will spread the word about the repeal, but noted that some absentee voters have already returned ballots with the completed pledges. According to the Board of Elections, 5,720 absentee ballot applications were requested, and 1,316 have been returned.

The vast majority of the applications came from Fairfax County. In response, the general registrar, Cameron Glenn Sasnett, said the county will notify voters by email when possible and spread the word through the county communications office.

“From the onset, voters were concerned,” he said.