Virginia’s Republican presidential primary is getting more exclusive by the day.
First the state party sparked controversy last week when it announced that neither Texas Gov. Rick Perry nor former House speaker Newt Gingrich had submitted enough valid signatures to appear on the March 6 primary ballot.
Now Republicans are also looking to place restrictions on just who can actually vote in the primary.
In order to cast their ballots in the GOP nominating contest, Virginians will have to sign a form that says, “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which first reported the move.
On Wednesday, the state Board of Elections approved the pledge form, as well as signs that will hang in polling places advising voters of the state party’s policy.
The pledge has no legal weight — voters are free to sign the form and then disregard it if they choose — but it is meant to discourage mischief-making by non-Republicans. Virginians do not register to vote by party, making it possible for Democrats and independents to show up and vote in the Republican contest.
Not everyone in the GOP is on board with the idea. Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) said in a press release Thursday that he was opposed to the pledge.
“Virginia’s Republican leadership wants to mandate a loyalty oath when Virginia’s Republican officials are in court fighting the Obamacare mandate?” Marshall said. “This sends the wrong message.”
Marshall noted that the pledge would even disqualify Gingrich, a McLean resident, because the former speaker has said he could not support Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) if Paul secured the nomination.
This is not the first cycle in which state Republicans have sought to impose such a pledge. In 2000, the GOP made voters in its primary promise not to participate in the primaries of any other party, after state election officials rejected the party’s request to disseminate a form asking voters to pledge support for “all of the Republican Party’s nominees in the next election.”
Virginia Republicans initially planned to include a loyalty pledge in the 2008 presidential primary, but then decided to scrap the idea amid fears by some in the party that the requirement might alienate some independent voters from the GOP cause.
The state Republican Party did not return a call seeking comment on the policy.