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Marshall objects to GOP loyalty oath

At least one Republican is berating his party for requiring that presidential primary voters sign a pledge to support the GOP nominee.

In a news release Thursday, Del. Bob Marshall, R-Prince William, said a loyalty oath “sends the wrong message” and is unlikely to serve much purpose.

“Virginia’s Republican leadership wants to mandate a loyalty oath when Virginia’s Republican officials are in court fighting the Obamacare mandate? This sends the wrong message,” Marshall wrote. “I understand Republican leaders not wanting Democrats to make our decision for us, but a loyalty oath is not the way to address that circumstance.”

Virginia doesn’t have party registration, and its primaries are open to voters from either party. That means a Democrat, for instance, could vote in the Republican primary for a candidate perceived as less popular or less likely to threaten the Democratic candidate. That’s not a problem when both parties have primaries on the same day, since the law only allows a voter to vote in one primary. But Democrats aren’t having a presidential primary in Virginia, since President Barack Obama is their only candidate.

So the state Republican Party had voted to require the pledge, and the state Board of Elections approved it, at the party’s request, on Wednesday.

Since it is a party primary and not a general election, the party is allowed to require such a pledge, although it isn’t legally binding on the voter’s general election vote.  Voters in the March primary will be required to sign a paper that says “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president.”

Marshall said that could knock one presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, out of voting in Virginia, where Gingrich lives, since Gingrich has said he would not support Ron Paul. Only Paul and Mitt Romney qualified to be on Virginia’s GOP primary ballot. Marshall also said such oaths are “detested by many good Republicans.

“Requiring Virginia election workers to enforce a Republican loyalty oath in a primary paid for by the general taxpayer is a markedly questionable use of tax money,” Marshall wrote in his release. “Republicans I know want to defeat President Obama and his liberal Democrat supporters in Congress. I believe the great majority will vote for the Republican nominee over Obama. I question whether beating Barack Obama, which I am working hard to do, is furthered by requiring a loyalty oath in this presidential primary.”