Loyalty Oaths and How They Can Backfire

I recently read about the Virginia GOP’s plans to require a loyalty oath of its primary voters.  I am not going to go into too much detail about it, if you want more info, I think this article sums it up pretty well:  http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/12/virginia-gop-will-require-voters-to-sign-loyalty-oath/

What I do want to talk about is what I consider to be shortsightedness on the part of the GOP leaders in Virginia who approved this idea.  The whole point of the loyalty oath is to prevent the supposed double voting that may or may not be occurring.  The basic idea is that opposing party members would vote in the GOP primary, conspire to vote for a weak candidate and make that candidate win the primary.  This would in theory increase the weak candidate’s chances of receiving the eventual presidential nomination and thus offer less opposition to President Obama’s relection bid.  Or at least that is how the theory goes…

However, the loyalty oath cannot be enforced. First, the national election is secret ballot, so there is no way of knowing for a fact that if person A signed your oath, then they actually voted for your candidate when the time came.  Second, even if there was some way of knowing, the oath is not legally binding.

My opinion, and I firmly hold it as being just that, is that this plan can very easily backfire. This is basically just taunting all the people who might be considering to come and vote in the GOP primary to go ahead and do it.  After all, if the idea is that the oath is an honor based system and the individuals who are voting for a primary candidate that they have no intention of voting for in the national election, then I believe that those individuals will do so in even larger numbers.

The other downside from this is simply that some real GOP members might not vote in the primary since their honor would compel them to follow through with the oath they sign even though the candidate chosen by the GOP does not win them over.  For example, let us assume a Mitt Romney supporter signs the oath and the eventual candidate ends up being Rick Perry.  Now, for those of you who have been following the debates, you might see the problem.  The voter wanted to vote for Mitt Romney, but now they will be compelled, by their honor, to vote for Rick Perry who they may not agree with (I chose those 2 candidates since their views seem to differ fairly radically).  So, the GOP voter will simply choose not to vote in the primary rather than risk being forced to vote for a candidate they do not agree with.

My advice to the GOP is to roll this back and just let the cards fall where they will, this policy may seem right, but without legal weight behind the oath, it is just a counterproductive idea.