Fairfax Sen. Chap Petersen’s bill to eliminate loyalty oaths or statements of affiliation in state-subsidized party primaries passed the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee in a 11-1 vote on Tuesday.
Although Petersen offered to remove the emergency clause, the committee at the request of Chairman Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) passed the bill “as is” with the clause in recognition of the rapidly approaching March 1st primary date and the fact that several thousand absentee ballots already cast in the 2016 Virginia Republican presidential primary. It is the intention of the committee to ensure that all votes are counted – whether or not the oath was signed. Passing a bill will clarify that fact.
It is unclear how many absentee ballots were returned with a signed loyalty oath.
“I’m glad this bill got out of committee and thank Senator Vogel for her leadership and support,” Petersen said. “Now we need to make sure it passes on the floor and gets to the Governor’s desk in order to ensure that all Virginians will have their ballot counted on March 1st.
“This bill in no way limits the rights of political parties to nominate candidates. They can still use a restricted caucus or mass meeting, where they can require a partisan pledge, a fitness test or a trial by combat. I really don’t care. But if they’re going to use state resources, they must keep the polls open to all interested voters. They cannot use a state agency to enforce a partisan test,” Petersen said.