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GOP chairman asks party to reconsider loyalty oath

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Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins is asking the governing body of the state party to reconsider requiring GOP primary voters to sign a loyalty oath.

He called a meeting of the party's State Central Committee for Jan. 21 to discuss the matter. In a message posted to his Facebook page, Mullins says he is asking committee members to talk to their constituencies about it before the vote.

"The broader issue is … we need party registration in Virginia," Mullins writes. "Democrats have fought this for years for obvious reasons. We can't have Democrat party loyalists flood our primaries to affect our nomination process. Party nominees must be chosen by their party."

He continues, "However, in 2012, there are quite a lot of non-party-affiliated voters who will be helping us remove the current occupant of the White House — tea party members, conservative independents, new first-time voters, young people who can't find work — people who want to participate this year to save their country. We must consider this in our deliberations."

The central committee voted in December to require voters to sign a loyalty oath in order to participate in the March 6 GOP presidential primary. The decision has met with opposition from some Republicans, including Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William.

The State Board of Elections voted on Dec. 28 to approve three forms developed by the election board's staff to implement the loyalty pledge requested by the state GOP.

Anyone who wants to vote must sign a form at the polling place pledging to support the eventual Republican nominee for president. The pledge is unenforceable in the general election, but anyone who refuses to sign will be barred from voting in the primary.

In Virginia's 2000 GOP presidential primary, won by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, voters were required to sign a different pledge: "I, the undersigned, state that I do not intend to participate in the nomination process of any other party than the Republican Party."

Because Virginians do not register to vote by party, any registered voter can cast a ballot in a presidential primary. If the Democratic and Republican parties hold primaries on the same day, a voter must choose one or the other.

Virginia will not hold a Democratic presidential primary in March because President Barack Obama is the party's only candidate who qualified.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are the only two candidates who qualified for Virginia's Republican primary.

Wally Erb, a Paul volunteer from Norfolk who helped open a state campaign office there Tuesday, said he could not support any candidate, regardless of party, who did not represent his core beliefs.

"The pledge that the RPV has put forth talked about an intention to support the party, and I do believe in that," he said, "but there are other pledges that one takes in life, and one of those is the Pledge of Allegiance. I think the pledge of liberty and justice for all supersedes the pledge of party."

Erb said that if, for example, the Republican nominee supported either the Patriot Act or the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act — which grants the government the power to detain U.S. citizens without trial — he could not back the candidate.

Romney has voiced support for the Patriot Act — which allows federal investigators to use aggressive surveillance tactics, including wiretapping — as a way of fighting terrorism.

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