Party Voter Oath 'Unenforceable,' McDonnell Says

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sherfinski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling are urging the state Republican Party to rescind a pledge requiring voters to say they intend to support the party's presidential nominee before they are allowed to vote in the March 6 primary.

While I fully understand the reasoning that led to the establishment of this requirement, such an oath is unenforceable, and I do not believe it is in the best interests of our party, or the commonwealth, Mr. McDonnell said in a statement. The effect of the oath could be one of diminishing participation in the primary, at a time when our party must be expanding its base and membership as we head into the pivotal 2012 general elections this fall.

Before being allowed to cast their ballots, voters would have to sign a statement, often described as a loyalty oath, that says, I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.

Proponents of the pledge say that because there is no party registration in Virginia, it helps weed out Democrats looking to create mischief.

We can't have Democrat Party loyalists flood our primaries to affect our nomination process, Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins wrote in announcing a Jan. 21 meeting to reconsider the pledge, while reiterating the need for party registration in Virginia.

Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Bolling said they supported establishing voluntary voter registration by party as one way to encourage party loyalty.

A spokesman for Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II said the Republican attorney general has not yet taken a position on the pledge, and the decision whether to rescind it was for the party's state central committee to make.

Morton Blackwell, a Republican National Committee member from Virginia, said he has long supported party registration - as well as the pledge of intent.

It is not an oath; it is not a promise, he said. "It is a statement of intent. .. It will have

theeffect of dramatically reducing the number of Democrats who vote in the Republican primary in March who will be picking who they think is the weakest candidate who will run against Obama"

Opponents, though, argue that it's unenforceable, and could confuse or dissuade potential voters.

The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union weighed in on Thursday, saying it thinks the requirement is unconstitutional and is prepared to sue if it remains in place.

Voters who do not feel that they can make this promise in good faith will be deterred from their right to vote in the Republican primary, Rebecca K. Glenberg, the group's legal director, wrote in a letter to state central committee members Thursday.

The pledge has received heightened attention this year because of the failure of several Republican candidates to qualify for the presidential primary ballot. …