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Delegate Opposes ‘Loyalty Oath,’ Supports Party Registration

January 21, 2012

By Amir Vera
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Delegate Richard Anderson of Woodbridge is glad fellow Republican officials have abandoned a proposed requirement that voters sign a “loyalty oath” before casting ballots in the party’s March 6 presidential primary election.

Initially, the GOP planned to require primary voters to sign a pledge to support the Republican presidential nominee in November’s general election, no matter who that might be.

Anderson opposed that requirement.

“My major concern is that a lot of Republicans are upset by that and it will have a chilling effect on participation in the Republican primary,” he said. “There will be people who don’t vote in the primary if they have to sign a loyalty oath to the Republican Party. They’ll just wait until November and vote in the general election.”

Anderson said his constituents in House District 51, which includes part of Prince William County, approached him at different events and complained about the oath.

“The common comment that I’ve received from people is they felt like they were being pressured about the way they cast their vote,” Anderson said. “I just feel that in a free society that it’s not appropriate to ask somebody to comply with some kind of prerequisite before they do a simple but important thing – and that’s cast their ballot.”

Because of that pressure, the Republican Party of Virginia decided this week to drop the proposed loyalty oath.

“We informally polled the GOP State Central Committee over the past week and there was an overwhelming and near unanimous feeling that we should rescind the loyalty oath,” party Chairman Pat Mullins wrote Tuesday on Facebook.

“The Executive Committee of RPV voted last night unanimously to have me inform the State Board of Elections, that having heard from nearly all members of the GOP State Central Committee, that we would have an overwhelming majority vote to rescind the ‘loyalty oath.’ ”

The committee was scheduled to confirm that decision at a meeting Saturday [Jan. 21] in Richmond.

While Anderson disliked the proposed oath, he said the intent was understandable: The objective was to ensure that Republicans would vote in the GOP primary and Democrats would vote in the Democratic primary.

Under existing state law, anyone can vote in either primary (but not both primaries) during a particular year.

As a result, Anderson said, there have been instances in which Democrats voted in the Republican primaries, and vice versa, to nominate a weaker candidate and undercut the rival party.

Anderson has proposed legislation that he believes would prevent such sabotage.

Under House Bill 1051, Virginians would designate their party affiliation when they register to vote. Virginians who don’t identify with any party would be considered independents.

Then, each state party organization would decide who could vote in its primary elections. Under HB 1051, the party could declare that the primary is:

“Open only to qualified voters who are registered as being affiliated with the political party,” or “Open to qualified voters who are registered as being affiliated with the political party and to qualified voters who are registered as independents,” or “Open to all qualified voters.”

The party also could decide that the primary is “closed to qualified voters who have participated in another party’s primary within a stated period of time.”

The bill would help ensure that only registered Republicans vote in GOP primaries and only registered Democrats in Democratic primaries.

“I just think it keeps everyone clean and honest on both sides,” Anderson said.

More about House Bill 1051

A subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee will consider HB 1051 at 8 a.m. Monday [Jan. 23]. The meeting will be in the Fourth Floor West conference room of the General Assembly Building.

To track or comment on the bill, visit the Richmond Sunlight website:
http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2012/hb1051.

This CNS article was published by EmporiaNews.com.