Email: Virginia GOP to drop ‘loyalty oath’

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The Republican Party of Virginia will not require voters to sign a pledge of intent to support the party’s nominee in the general election before being allowed to vote in the March 6 primary, according to an e-mail from the state Board of Elections obtained by The Washington Times.

The controversy over the pledge, often described as a “loyalty oath,” had been brewing since the board approved its use late last month. Both Gov. Bob McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling have weighed in against it.

“The Republican Party of Virginia has communicated to SBE its intentions regarding the Republican Party pledge/oath and Secretary [Donald] Palmer has authorized that the pledge not be administered for absentee voting and on Election Day,” reads an e-mail from the state Board of Elections to registrars and electoral board members. “Please do not include the pledge in your absentee ballot mailings.”

The RPV State Central Committee is scheduled to take up the issue at a special meeting Saturday, but absentee voting begins Friday. The news was first reported on the conservative blog Bearing Drift.

Under the plan, before being allowed to cast their ballots, voters would have to sign a statement 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 weeds out Democrats and independents looking to create mischief. Opponents, though, argue it’s unenforceable and could confuse or dissuade potential voters.

The pledge has received heightened attention this year because of the failure of several Republican candidates to qualify for the presidential primary ballot, but it’s not new to the state. The GOP required a pledge in 1995 to support the party’s eventual nominee in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors primary race, leading to mayhem at the polls with party officials trying to bar people from voting if they didn’t sign the pledge. One man had to be escorted from a polling place.

The Republican Party last imposed a pledge requirement for the presidential primary in 2000, and there was no primary when President Bush sought re-election in 2004.

The party approved a pledge in 2007 only to abandon it after a similar backlash.

The Republican Party of Virginia will not require voters to sign a pledge of intent to support the party’s nominee in the general election before being allowed to vote in the March 6 primary, according to an e-mail from the state Board of Elections obtained by The Washington Times.

A representative for the State Board of Elections and a spokesman for the RPV did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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