Your article on the Virginia Democratic and Republican presidential primary elections on Super Tuesday (March 1) had a lot of useful information. But you left out the biggest story, one that Patrick County voters, especially those planning to vote in the Republican primary, need to know. That is the fact that the Republican Party of Virginia has officially requested that the state Board of Elections require every voter who participates in the Republican primary to fill out and sign a pledge or statement of party affiliation before casting his or her vote.
While Virginia does not register voters by party and a voter may choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican Primary (but not in both), state law does allow political parties to request that voters sign a pledge or statement of party affiliation before casting primary ballots.
Unless the Republican Party rescinds its request to the Virginia Board of Elections before January 15, any voter in Patrick County who wishes to vote in the Republican primary will have to sign a statement saying: “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican.”
Voters must print and sign their names; the form also asks for email and telephone numbers, but this information is optional. The Republican Party had hoped to have access to this information after the election, but it appears that the signed forms will become part of the official election record and be retained by the local or state boards of election.
Unless the voter signs the form, he or she will not be allowed to cast a ballot (locally, the form would be signed before the voter would be allowed to proceed to the voting machine), and the form would also be required for absentee voters, who would have to include the signed form with their marked ballot or their vote would not be counted.
Critics of the GOP’s action, including the Donald Trump campaign, say that it is an attempt to discourage independents and voters who do not usually participate in the Republican primary. It will certainly add time, and perhaps some confusion and frustration, to the voting process. In larger precincts, long lines and increased waiting times are predicted.
On January 5, a suit was filed in federal court in Richmond against the pledge by three Trump supporters (who are African-American pastors), saying that it infringes the Voting Rights Act, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and state law. However, the Virginian Board of Elections and local registrars are going ahead with preparations to implement the pledge, which will be in place on Election Day unless the courts rule against it or the Virginia Republican Party withdraws its request in the next few days.
There will be no pledge or loyalty oath required to vote in the Democratic primary. In accordance with Virginia law, any registered voter, whether Democrat, independent or Republican, who wishes to have a say in choosing the Democratic nominee for President, is welcome to participate.
Any Patrick County voter who would like to become more involved in the process, including in the election of delegates to the Democratic National Convention that will choose the eventual nominee, is invited to participate in the Democratic County Caucus in mid-April; notice of the caucus and the rules that apply will be published in The Enterprise and other local media closer to that date. I urge Patrick County voters to take part in the primary elections, for either party, and to get involved in choosing our next President.