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Proposed Loyalty Oath Hurts Interest In Virginia GOP Primary

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The discussion about a loyalty oath for Virginia GOP voters curbed interest in Tuesday's primary, residents say.
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The discussion about a loyalty oath for Virginia GOP voters curbed interest in Tuesday's primary, residents say.

Turnout is expected to be low in Virginia's GOP presidential contest, because only two candidates made the ballot. Some voters are also reportedly turned off by a debate in the commonwealth over whether to require a loyalty oath from primary voters.

Virginia has an open primary, so Democrats and Independents can weigh in on the Republican contest. To dissuade mischief, officials debated requiring a loyalty oath of support for the party's eventual nominee. The idea was eventually rejected, but many voters say the debate over the oath soured them and makes them want to sit the contest out. Other voters say they still think it's required.

But Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith says he doesn't think the misinformation will have a major impact.

"I think they misunderstood it," says Griffith. "The oath never said, 'You are locked in you have to do it.' It said your intent when you vote in the Republican primary is to support the Republican candidate. Well that's a question of whether or not you're being honest. If you intend to vote for Barack Obama you shouldn't be there in the first place."

Griffith says that he thinks residents were misled by media reports about the loyalty oath, but he dismisses the claim that it would be preventing people from turning up at the polls: "I think that most people know that that's not there."

 

Virginia resident Steve Skojec says he thinks the oath was initially intended to steer votes away from presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). 

"I almost felt as if the loyalty oath was specifically designed to minimize the number of Paul supporters who would vote in an open primary, because clearly most of them would feel very uncomfortable supporting the establishment candidate," Skojec says.

 

Since only former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul made the state's ballot anyway, enthusiasm for the primary has remained low. Analysts say many Paul votes will actually be anti-Romney votes. Even without the loyalty oath, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) says he s not too concerned. 

"You know, you hear all of these things, you hear in Michigan how the Democrats tried to sabotage that and do it  in all these elections you have these variants that take place, but I think overall that s probably not going to have a major impact," Forbes says.

Nine other states are also holding contests on Super Tuesday. 

This story was informed in part by sources in WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on upcoming stories. Learn more about the Public Insight Network.

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