Virginia Republican Presidential Primary Oath

On November 26, the Virginia State Board of Elections approved the Republican Party’s request that no one be permitted to vote in the February 12, 2008 Republican presidential primary, unless the voter signs an oath. It reads, “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for President.”

In the past, some other Southern states have had such pledges for primary voters, but they had all been abandoned. The Democratic Party of Virginia will not require any pledge for its presidential primary, also being held on February 12.

Virginia never had presidential primaries until 1988, and has never had such an oath for any presidential primary. The U.S. Supreme Court approved a somewhat similar oath for candidates in 1952 in Ray v Blair, 343 US 214. That case was from Alabama.

The Republican request seems unpopular, from the commentary. Also, it seems unlikely that many Democrats would be voting in the Virginia Republican primary, since Democrats have their primary the same day.


Virginia Republican Presidential Primary Oath — 6 Comments

  1. Not only drive them from voting in the primary, but from voting altogether. Just more ammunition for the Independent voter rebellion taking place. is calling for 1 million voters to boycott the established party primaries and register as independent or third party.

  2. Virginia Republicans have indeed previously used an oath to prevent voters from participating in both parties’ nominating events. Voters requesting a GOP ballot in the 2000 presidential primary had to sign a statement affirming, “I, the undersigned, state that I do not intend to participate in the nominating process of any other party than the Republican Party.”

    As for the Republicans’ 2008 oath… what’s the big deal? Since the Virginia legislature has refused to enact party registration, the oath is the most sensible alternative.

  3. The oath is silly and meaningless since it’s completely unenforceable.

    As for Democrats not voting in the Virginia Republican primary, in this situation many Democrats DO vote in the Republican primary – to vote for the most fanatic, right wing candidate (in this case perhaps Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo) in order to embarrass the GOP and help get delegates for a candidate who would be most easily defeated by any Democrat.

    This strategy worked here at the local level in the Virginia 67th House district in 2005, when an ultra-religious, ultra-conservative nobody who was supported by the likes of Grover Norquist defeated the incumbent delegate in the Republican primary 2 to 1 (with a whopping 8% turnout). According to blogs I was tracking at the time, many Democrats voted for this fellow because they knew he would get pasted by the Democratic candidate in the general election, which is exactly what happened, where as the more moderate incumbent would have been a lot tougher to beat in the general.

    This is one reason why parties don’t like open primaries.

  4. You’re right… that oath operates on the honor system. An alternative– absent party registration– would be for the Republicans to require anyone who had voted in a Democratic primary within a certain period of time to sign an “oath of affiliation” in order to vote in the Republican primary. The voter would thus disaffiliate from all other parties and pledge to only vote in Republican primaries in the future. Such an oath, of course, would have to be approved by the state and would make a lot of voters mad.

    In my view, the days of the state-mandated open primary are numbered. Miller v. Brown (in Virginia) will likely be appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, and Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour is now in the 5th Circuit in New Orleans. There is also a federal suit against Idaho’s open primary law.

  5. Personally, as a 30-plus year Republican Party supporter, and most generally, voter, I look forward with great anticipation going to the VA Rep. Presidential Primary election to cast my vote. I am going to refuse to sign the meaningless pledge and ask the party volunteer to look me in the eye and tell me that I am not allowed to cast my ballot. If that happens, from that moment on, I will become a supporter of individual candidates where appropriate – but not the party at the state level. VA Republcans…please wake up to the fact that this year – perhaps more than ever – the party needs to reach out widely and be as inclusive as possible. Otherwise, we’re going to find ourselves standing in the hall watching on while the band plays “Hail to Chiefette”. Policies that thwart efforts to prevent that from happening are decidely more than unhelpful.

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