Dear gods, just as I was starting to doubt the campaign season could get any dumber.
Pledges have become something of a fad in the Republican primary this year. Except for Jon Huntsman, the GOP hopefuls have all signed pledges to radical right-wing groups like the FA Mi LY
Leader promising to ban pornography and only appoint anti-abortion cabinet members and judges, among other things.
As the New York Times editorial board put it, “It used to be that a sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution was the only promise required to become president.” But today, “each pledge they sign undermines the basic principle of democratic government built on compromise and negotiation.”
Now the Virginia GOP is extending the trend to voters, requiring them to sign a loyalty oath to the party before they are allowed to participate in the primary:
The state Republican Party will require voters to sign a loyalty oath in order to participate in the March 6 presidential primary.
Anyone who wants to vote must sign a form at the polling place pledging to support the eventual Republican nominee for president. Anyone who refuses to sign will be barred from voting in the primary.
During a brief meeting Wednesday at the state Capitol, the State Board of Elections voted 3-0 to approve three forms developed by the election board’s staff to implement the loyalty pledge requested by the state GOP.
Those who wish to vote in the primary must sign a form that says, “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.” The pledge so impinges on citizens’ fundamental right to vote for whomever they want in the general election that even some Republican lawmakers in the state have come out against it.
This is not the first time Virginia Republicans have tried to implement a loyalty pledge. They backed off their attempts in 2000 and 2008 over concerns about alienating independent voters.
Of course, loyalty oaths have disturbing historical connotations in this country, harkening back to the Mc Carthy
era where many organizations required employees or members to sign loyalty oaths or lose their jobs.
(somewhat snipped due to length)
This rather radical requirement invokes several questions of constitutionality.
First, the decision to make the loyalty oath a non-elective qualification for voting triggers a 14th Amendment analysis.
The threshold question, then, is whether this decision on the part of the Republican Party of Virginia qualifies as state action.
It would seem that it does. According to the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court in Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944) and Terry v. Adams, 345 U.S. 461 (1953), political parties are not private clubs and any action taken by them that affects the right to vote is subject to scrutiny under the 14th Amendment.
The second legal hurdle that must be cleared by the Republican Party of Virginia’s effort to control access to the voting booth is pre-clearance of such a scheme by the Department of Justice.
The requirement that the Department of Justice review (or “examine,” to use Attorney General Holder’s word) proposed changes to the procedures implemented by the states to qualify voters is called “pre-clearance.”
Ron Paul (who’s name will appear at the top of the Republican primary ballot in Virginia as a result of a drawing held by the State Board of Elections) is running for President as a representative of the Republican Party, but his views on foreign aid, foreign wars, abolishing the Federal Reserve, and restoring states’ rights place him outside of the central channel of the mainstream of Republican Party policy. If Paul were to go on a tear through the primaries preceding the one in Virginia, there may be a fear that independents would line up to cast votes for the Texas Congressman in the Republican primary, thus denying the state’s delegates to Mitt Romney (the only other Republican on the ballot after the other GOP hopefuls failed to submit the requisite number of signatures).
Were Paul to win, the theory goes, the bloc of independents that voted for him in the primary election would abandon him in November and throw their support behind Barack Obama (or a third party candidate), thus effectively nullifying Virginia’s Republican primary.
Some other points not mentioned in the article, is that on the Virginia ballot only Romney and Paul are listed - none of the other candidates managed to get their names on. Secondly, the state constitution of Virginia specifically allows political parties to impose loyalty oaths, but only on their members, not on just any person who shows up to vote. Thirdly, some
of the same people pushing for this loyalty oath, which must be signed as a prerequisite to voting
, are the same people*
who during the 2008 election encouraged Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries for trailing candidates as a way of drawing out the process.
The whole thing is, of course, completely unenforcable; there's literally nothing to stop anyone from signing it and then still voting for Obama in the actual election. It is only for a primary election, and AFAIK they can't demand another loyalty oath for that election either, only the primaries. If I wanted to be charitable, I could even imagine that their intent was to reduce infighting once a definitive candidate for the GOP has emerged*
Overall, it almost
makes me wish I was registered to vote in Virginia, if for no other reason than to troll the election with a write-in vote for Isaac Asimov. Your thoughts, OTC?