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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Virginia's New Attorney General and a "Firehouse Primary"

On November 3, three statewide offices were at stake in Virginia, and the Republicans won all of them. Attorney general Bob McDonnell was elected governor; lieutenant governor Bill Bolling was re-elected; and state Senator Ken Cuccinelli was elected attorney general.

In 2005, Cuccinelli brought the first-ever lawsuit against a state-mandated open primary[1]. He found a 2004 piece that I had written on the various types of primaries, and he contacted me as part of his research for the case. He and I had quite a bit of correspondence after that. He was representing a local unit of the Virginia Republican Party, and he argued the case in the federal courts, winning the first ruling against the state-mandated open primary. The 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that, when a party is required to nominate by primary, the party-- not the state-- decides who is eligible to vote in that primary (Miller v. Cunningham). The decision was not appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court, which has never yet considered an open primary case.

In February 2006, the Mississippi Democrats (who did not know about the case pending in Virginia) filed suit against our state-mandated open primary. U. S. district judge Allen Pepper declared our law unconstitutional, but the 5th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dismissed the suit on a technicality (Mississippi Democratic Party v. Barbour).

Cuccinelli was the last Republican state senator from the D. C. suburbs of northern Virginia, and a special election will be held in January to fill that seat. Virginia gives its parties several nominating options besides the primary, and the GOP used a "firehouse primary" to choose its nominee. In this process, all voters cast their ballots at one central location; the hours were 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (Virginia, like Mississippi, does not register voters by party.)

"Would-be voters were required to produce identification and sign a pledge that they intend to support the Republican nominee going forward."

Alone among the states, Virginia does not allow its chief executive to succeed himself, so don't be surprised if Cuccinelli is in the thick of the 2013 governor's race.

Congratulations, Cooch!


[1] The state requires any party holding a primary to let any voter participate in that primary. Each voter picks a party on primary day.


Blogger Phil Rodokanakis said...

The problem with the Republican party pledge in VA is that it's meaningless as it's unenforceable. furthermore, it alienates voters, even Republicans, because it asks them to pledge support for all Republican nominees.

To demonstrate how absurd this pledge is, suppose that some derogatory information comes out after the nominee is selected forcing voters to decide against voting for the nominee, they would still be bound by their pledge to vote for this nominee--which they won't and there is nothing that can be done about enforcing the pledge.

The quicker the GOP gives up on this silly notion of having voters sign pledges, the better of the party will be. What VA needs is voter registration by party. Then the majority will register as independents and the parties won't keep on taking the voters for granted.

Thu Dec 03, 11:41:00 AM CST  

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