The Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee yesterday unanimously asked the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) to drop the requirement that GOP primary voters sign a statement of affiliation with the Republican Party. The GOP had previously asked for the statement, which was approved by the SBE, see here, and defended it in court as recently as January 13th. It was a bad idea and I’m glad they’ve dropped it.
But the timing of the GOP’s decision is appalling, and poses serious logistical and legal (even Constitutional) questions – the SBE has incurred the expenses to prepare the forms and train election officers, and absentee voting has begun. Some voters may have signed the oath and voted, refused to sign the oath and been turned away (presumably they can now come back), refused to sign the oath and voted by provisional ballot (which perhaps may now be counted), or voted in the Democratic Primary (in which case, they are done – and can’t vote in the GOP primary). Trump has been complaining about the oath since December – if the RPV was going to cave in and do what The Donald wanted, it should have done so before voting started.
The GOP’s public explanation of its change of mind is appalling as well – it blames Gov. McAuliffe and AG Herring, because they somehow changed the oath against the GOP’s wishes. See RPV Press Release. This is false, and the minor changes (to which the GOP did not object) were made before absentee voting began. Below is the GOP Primary Statement and the Form adopted by the SBE. Both contain the statement: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.” That’s the oath the GOP asked for. There were some minor changes at the SBE Meeting in December, see Dec. 16, 2015 SBE meeting Minutes at 7-9. E.g. the introductory language was changed to reflect the statute and the State Form was labelled a state form, not “Property of the Republican Party of Virginia” (because it’s not). The GOP was represented by its Executive Director at the SBE meeting and the motion to adopt the form was made by the Republican member of the SBE.
This is the fourth time since Virginia’s presidential primary statute was enacted in 1999 that the GOP has asked for loyalty oath, and the third time they have rescinded that request. It takes a certain level of incompetence to screw up a state run primary. But then to blame Democrats for your error is Trumpian and pathetic.
Also – State Senator Chap Peterson is pushing unnecessary emergency legislation to amend 24.2-545 to remove the oath provision, claiming that it is a “bipartisan” problem. It’s not – Democrats have never asked for an oath under that statute. I would be concerned about any legislative changes that could endanger the Democratic Party’s ability to have a presidential primary. Democrats should leave the issue alone.
RPV 2016 Primary Letter (149.2 KiB, 982 hits)
SBE - GOP Statement of Affliation (7.3 KiB, 855 hits)
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