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Virginia GOP To Require Primary Loyalty Oath

If you show up to vote in the Republican Primary in Virginia, they’re going to want you to make a promise;

The state Republican Party will require voters to sign a loyalty oath in order to participate in the March 6 presidential primary.

Anyone who wants to vote must sign a form at the polling place pledging to support the eventual Republican nominee for president. Anyone who refuses to sign the pledge will be barred from voting.

During a brief meeting Wednesday at the state Capitol, the State Board of Elections voted 3-0 to approve three forms developed by the election board’s staff to implement the loyalty pledge requested by the state GOP.

(…)

As for the loyalty oath, the elections board approved a notice to inform absentee voters of the pledge, a sign to hang at polling places and the pledge form itself.

Signs for polling places and the pledge form will advise voters that “Section 24.2-545 of the Code of Virginia allows the political party holding a primary to determine requirements for voting in the primary, including ‘the signing of a pledge by the voter of his intention to support the party’s candidate when offering to vote in the primary.’ ”

The pledge will require the voter to sign and to print his name beneath a line that says: “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”

This isn’t new in Virginia. There was a similar oath during the 2000 primary, and the party tried to implement one for the 2008 primary but ended up withdrawing  it after an uproar. The oath is largely unenforceable, of course. If you vote in the Republican primary in Virginia and then vote for a Democrat, Libertarian, or whatever in the General Election, nobody is ever going to know and you’d be entitled to vote again in a future Republican primary. Some Virginia Republicans, however, feel the oath is necessary because of the fact that Virginia is one of 20 states that have an open primary (in fact there is no party registration at all in Virginia), which leaves a party primary open to infiltration by outsiders.This is largely a meritless argument.

First of all, there is little evidence that any primary in Virginia, or any other open primary state for that matter, has ever been infiltrated to a large degree by voters from the opposing party. Second, Virginia law allows an open primary and the GOP chose to hold a primary rather than a caucus or convention. If the RPV wants to ensure that the party’s nominee is selected only, or at least primarily, by “party members”, then they should choose that candidate at a convention. Calling a primary in a state where primary voting isn’t limited to registered party members means that you accept the fact that people who aren’t diehard activist Republicans will have a say in who your nominee is.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    If you vote in the Republican primary in Virginia and then vote for a Democrat, Libertarian, or whatever in the General Election, nobody is ever going to know

    That’s what I’ve never understood about these kinds of things – it’s impossible to ever know if anyone violates it, and even if they trumpeted it from the rooftops, there’s no legal basis for penalizing anyone who does. It seems like the only function of ‘loyalty oaths’ like this are to insult the very people that take them. I guess it gives some functionaries another chance to beat their chests about how dedicated they are to the cause, but is there any conceivable benefit to the party or the regular voters?

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  2. When this happened in 2007, right before the 08 primary, there was enough of an uproar that the RPV backed down. Let’s see if that happens this time.

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  3. Tano says:

    Not to defend such silliness, but the story does not seem to be accurate on a subtle, but relevant point.

    The quoted story characterizes the pledge as:

    pledging to support the eventual Republican nominee for president.

    But the actual wording of the pledge says:

    I intend to support the nominee…

    In other words, the “pledge” is not really a promise to vote GOP in November, it is merely a affirmation that as of today, primary day, I intend to vote GOP in November.

    This is silly, but I also must admit to being somewhat sympathetic to their concerns. I have never really understood the impulse of some to support open primaries. The political parties are private organizations, and they have every right to freely associate amongst themselves and choose their own candidates, without participation of non-members.

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  4. John says:

    Didn’t the Virginia Democrats do the same thing?

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  5. David says:

    It’s their club, they can make their rules. Of course it has no real effect and makes he party look like they are wearing tin foil hats… Of course, I’m wondering if there isn’t a little projection there ala Rush’s operation Hillary from 2008 (wasn’t that what it was called?).

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  6. rudderpedals says:

    A voter gets a ballot in exchange for signing this pledge but later campaign contribution records reveal support was given to Johnston or someone other than the GOP nominee. Would the voter’s breach of faith be actionable in VA if the nominee loses?

    ISTM it shouldn’t be actionable as a matter of public policy but my license is no good outside of Fla.

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  7. Trumwill says:

    It’s essentially a way to say “We don’t want infiltrators voting in our primary. We can’t stop them, but we can at least make them sign something.”

    Of course what they are signing is meaningless. It’s symbolic. On an individual level, the act of voting itself is symbolic.

    In one state where I have lived, there was an open primary system but by voting in someone’s primary you were technically a member of that party until the next go-around. Meaningless symbolism. But you know what? I know people for whom this prevented from voting in the opposite primary. They didn’t want it officially recorded anywhere, under any circumstances, that they were a member of the Republican Party.

    In the grand scheme of things, on the basis of changing results, is this likely to make a difference? No. So why do we care? Why did Doug write a post on this? I would guess because he doesn’t like the idea of someone having to make a pledge in a case like this. If so, however, that indicates that the pledge is not useless. Not psychologically, anyway.

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  8. Hey Norm says:

    The Repubs are big on pledges. They should worry less about stuff like this and Norquist and more about doing what’s right for the country.

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  9. PogueMahone says:

    I’d sign it!
    Keeping in mind that I would make my promise to them be as valuable as the promise their candidate makes to me.

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  10. JohnMcC says:

    I immediately got this funny mental picture of a modern Paul Revere plunging through the dark winter night in Richmond crying “the RonBots are coming! The RonBots are coming!” And the solid burghers of Virginia are sweeping the women and children off the streets.

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  11. ed says:

    Also, too:
    War is Peace,
    Freedom is Slavery,
    Ignorance is Teh Awesome.

    Sure hope the Thought Cops don’t come for me when I fail to vote for Teh Party, even if totally by accident.

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  12. James in LA says:

    Intimidation thy name is toothless oath.

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  13. de stijl says:

    Creepy! I wonder if they make the oath-takers touch the state flag and give some kind of salute?

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