Va. GOP Opts for Closed Primary; Could Put Ron Paul at Disadvantage

By: Chris Stover / AP Email
By: Chris Stover / AP Email

December 28, 2011

As the Republican primary in Virginia approaches, the state Board of Elections voted Wednesday to make a change to how voters vote.

The board voted to have a closed presidential primary at the request of state Republican leaders. Any voter who wants to cast a ballot in the Republican primary must also sign a pledge of intent to support whoever the Republican nominee is in November.

"The party, I think, is trying to exert a little control over who's going to vote in its primary, but because the pledge is effectively unenforceable, it's hard to do that to maintain control over who votes," said political analyst Kyle Kondik with UVa.'s Center for Politics.

In Virginia, voters do not register by party affiliation, so everyone is considered an independent. A closed primary implies only Republicans are voting for Republican candidates, as opposed to an open primary, where anyone can vote.

Kondik says the move to a closed primary might be a way for Republicans to take away Congressman Ron Paul's advantage. Paul generally attracts Libertarian and independent voters, and the state GOP may prefer a more right-leaning candidate.

"Maybe this is putting up a little bit of a barrier to keep some Ron Paul folks out," Kondik said. "But on the other hand, if people want to vote in that primary, they're going to because they can just sign the pledge and then lie about it."

Paul supporters, like Albemarle County resident Jack Faw, are not happy with the GOP's request.

"It is unimaginable what the Republican party is doing to itself," Faw said. "The Republican party will not let him in and be a part. He doesn't go along to get along and never has."

A drawing by the state Board of Elections put Paul first on the ballot for Virginia's March 6 primary.

Mitt Romney will appear second on the ballot. Paul and Romney are the only GOP presidential candidates who have qualified for Virginia's ballot.

Virginia will join nine other states holding primaries on Super Tuesday, which is scheduled for March 6.

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