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Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli wants voters to identify their party affiliation.
Monday, July 8, 2013
Most Virginia politicians still take it as a point of pride when a voter confides over a handshake that he’s not quite sure of the candidate’s partisan affiliation.
Conscientious state leaders hailing from both parties have sought to represent all their constituents, not just those who don funny hats for political conventions.
Such ecumenical attitudes seem old-fashioned in today’s world of gerrymandering, cable TV shout-a-thons disguised as news shows and hyper-partisan blogs. But they are still embedded in Virginia’s political system. One example is the commonwealth’s tradition of nonpartisan voter registration.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, has long favored a requirement that voters identify their party affiliation or declare themselves independents when they register.
Cuccinelli recently reiterated his support for the change in election law, saying it would enable political parties to restrict participation in primaries to their own members.
It’s a fair question whether taxpayers should foot the bill for restricted primaries. In any event, political parties already have options to minimize outside influences. Republicans routinely require loyalty oaths from primary voters. Parties also can opt for conventions to nominate candidates.
While some partisans fear enemy infiltration, the reality is that many Virginians vote in primaries based on their support for a particular individual or because the election outcome will be decided at the nomination level. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, 43 of 100 House of Delegates seats are uncontested in this year’s general election. Two years ago, gerrymandered House districts allowed 63 Republicans and Democrats to win with 90 percent or more of the vote. Fourteen state senators racked up similar wins.
Rather than assume nefarious motivations, partisans should welcome independent participation as an opportunity for party-building as well as a sign that they are offering candidates whose appeal is based not just on ideological litmus tests but on character and leadership.
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