Registering for the Party!?

Senator Obenshain
Senator Obenshain on Lobby Day 2015

For those who don’t know, Virginia is an open primary state.  That means that when a political party holds a primary, any registered voter can participate so long as he or she does not vote in the primary of more than one party for a given office.  Whether you consider yourself to be a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Constitutional, Socialist, something else, or an independent, you can vote in most every primary.  Well, that situation may be about to change.

This year, there are two bills before the General Assembly that create party registration.  They are HB 1518 patroned by Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta) and SB 1060 by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham).  Presumably the purpose in crafting this legislation is to prevent members of an opposing party to participate in primaries.

In general, most grassroots activists I have spoken with thus far are opposed to party registration.  Some cite the fact that they don’t want to officially be a part of any political party while others have concerns what would happen if these party lists ended up in the wrong hands.  Some compare it to the idea of gun registration.  They argue that if we don’t believe it is appropriate for the government to have a gun registry, why would we allow them a political registry?  I oppose it too, but for different reasons.

In response to these bills, I have spoken directly with Delegate Landes and with a staffer for Senator Obenshain.  As mentioned, on Lobby Day, I encouraged several members of the General Assembly to vote against these bills as well as speaking at length with my senator’s political director about my concerns.  Although I was informed that they would send me information as to why the senator is proposing such legislation, the only answer I have been given after several days is that “this bill provides either party, Republican or Democrat, greater control over who can participate in their party’s nominating process.”  Unfortunately, I expect that I shall hear nothing further.

Therefore, let me share my objections with you.

We live in a country grounded in political freedom.  With the exception of felons who have not have their voting rights restored, everyone eighteen years or older who has properly registered to vote is allowed to do so regardless of race, religion, gender, or political preference.  Here in Virginia we can enjoy this freedom in primaries as well.

As a result, I’ve voted in just about every primary that I can.  This has included voting in: the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, the 2006 Democratic senatorial primary, the 2008 Republican presidential primary, the 2012 Republican presidential, house, and senatorial primary, and the 2013 Democratic statewide primary.  Some people vote for the weakest candidate in the hopes to defeat him or her in the general election.  Others do so in order to vote for the candidate whom we believe most closely aligns with our values.  But whatever the reason, positive or negative, many of us appreciate the ability to cast our vote freely and according to the dictates of what we think is best.  Unfortunately, these bills for party registration would chip away or completely eliminate that freedom.

Did you know that party primaries are not paid for by the political parties that hold them but rather the Virginia taxpayers?  Given that information, can you, in good conscience, support a bill that forces a citizen to pay for a primary and also forbids them from taking part in it?  In what universe is that considered just?

Another objection stems from the political demographics of the state.  In some places, like Rockingham or Augusta County, the Republican nominee will almost certainly be the winner of the general election.  In others, like Williamsburg, Charlottesville, or Alexandria, the Democratic candidate is a near certainty for victory.  Imagine yourself as either a Democrat living in a Republican area or as a Republican living in a Democratic stronghold.  Assuming you wish to have any voice in who represents you in government, your best and perhaps only hope is to participate in the primary of the opposing party so that you can vote for the most like-minded candidate.  These bills would ensure that if you were part of a political minority your opinion, no matter how small, could be completely ignored.

Also, it should be pointed out that primaries are unjustly applied.  Although the Democratic and Republican Parties can hold primaries at taxpayer expense, others such as the Libertarians or Greens cannot do so as they are not officially recognized political parties.  In fact, there are a considerable number of laws in place in Virginia to keep new and existing parties from being recognized, such as the onerous 10% hurdle.  Senator Obenshain’s bill, SB 1060, adds yet another layer stating that it “allows an official political party to retain that status as long as at least 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s registered voters are registered as affiliated with that party.”  It is exceedingly difficult to create new political competition through starting up a new political party when the current ones have laws to keep them firmly entrenched.

Given the poor job the Republican Party’s leadership has done in recent years through enacting the largest tax increase in Virginia history, continuing to expand the authority of the government, and creating rules that erode our political freedom to support the candidate that best supports our values and voting in any primaries that we are forced to pay for, why in heaven’s name would Delegate Landes and Senator Obenshain propose bills which give the two major political parties even more power?  Without competition, there is no incentive to become better, more principled, or more responsive to the people who entrusted you with power in the first place.

On the last page of my political memoir (which I hope to get published one of these days) I quote Richard Obenshain, father of Senator Obenshain, who stated that “the most important goal in my life is to have some significant impact in preserving and expanding the realm of personal freedom in the life of this country.”  Will enacting party registration in Virginia further this goal of expanding freedom in politics?  And, if not, grassroots activists have the right to know why in the hell our legislators are proposing such a plan!

16 Replies to “Registering for the Party!?”

  1. Frankly party primaries should be party affairs. The fact that they are not opens the door for malicious interference by opposing parties. I support voter registration by party and only allowing registered voters to vote in a given party’s primary. If you don’t have the guts to stand up and say you’re a member of the party (whatever party it is) then perhaps you shouldn’t have a vote. Freedom isn’t free.

    1. Freedom is not cheap either Ray. All you need to do is look at the motivation to change this Law. The (2) politicians are scared who bring this legislation, that is their motivation (keeping power) not freedom. “Many of us appreciate the ability to cast our vote freely and according to the dictates of what we think is best. Unfortunately, these bills for party registration would chip away or completely eliminate that freedom.”
      Your guts statement made me laugh tho. I believe in the Constitution.
      I support The Constitution Party
      http://www.constitutionparty.com/
      My vote is way more important than a Democrat or a Republican or any other party, left free my and your vote helps steer a nation.

      1. You didn’t address my point Steve. Instead you simply generated a Bulverism by ascribing a bad motive to those pursuing the legislation. That’s bad form. The point is that a primary is a party function and the party should have some reasonable assurance that those voting in their primary are in fact members of the party.

        Now if you don’t like parties, and who could blame you, then you need an entirely different system, not pretend that adulterating party primaries with voters with mixed motives is some virtue.

        The Founders didn’t like parties but then everyone almost immediately broke into factions (which are what parties are) because different people had different principles and priorities.

        The system should be designed to work and not be intentionally undermined. So I think registration by party or just independently run primaries with the party running them (They call those conventions I believe) are just fine. In fact I far prefer conventions to primaries.

        1. Ray, I did address your point. I agreed with you and told you my “Party” Affiliation. I stood up as You said! I told you exactly who I support. Telling the Truth is never bad form.
          What we disagree on is Changing this Law as it stands.
          I enjoy freedom as the founders did. Not Political parties.
          “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” – James Madison

          If you would tell me sir, who in the Commonwealth wants this legislation passed? The vast majority of Virginians? A plumber from Manassas, a welder from Norfolk, a farmer from Roanoke or a few politicians in need of some leverage? Or a political party in need of more power?

  2. I don’t take your point. A party when selecting its candidates should not be required to have the vote open to people who are not members of the party. That’s the principle. What do you think is wrong with that?

    1. Ray, To quote you “I support voter registration by party and only allowing registered voters to vote in a given party’s primary. If you don’t have the guts to stand up and say you’re a member of the party (whatever party it is) then perhaps you shouldn’t have a vote”
      I have three questions for you.
      1. What Party do you support?
      2. Do you believe the Bible
      3. Do you believe the US Constitution?

  3. You ask three questions none of which actually addresses my position.
    1. What Party do you support? (the party of which I am a member)
    2. Do you believe the Bible (for the purposes of a secular state I believe in Natural Law as expressed in the Ten Commandments. As an individual I am a traditional Roman Catholic which means I accept the magisterium)
    3. Do you believe the US Constitution? (as a citizen of the United States I am sworn to obey the law and the first law of the land is the Constitution, so frankly I think if you don’t support the Constitution you have no business being a citizen)

    Now what do you think the relevancy of those particular questions is?

  4. Ray, be careful in giving too much authority to your fellow man (magisterium) and again that is my point.

    I affirm the importance of Biblical scripture in the founders’ intent as eloquently stated by Noah Webster:

    “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitution and laws… All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts in the Bible.”

    Thanks for your input. Have a good Lords Day.

  5. Who said anything about authority? You do know that it was exactly that magisterium that gave you the bible that you reverence. You always have to exercise judgment when you accept authority. One of the key questions you have to answer in life is “Who do you trust?”

    In a primary election when a party is seeking to select its candidates, the answer to the question of “Who do you trust?” is your fellow party members. That’s the point.

  6. Wow! I just happen to be a Roman Catholic absolutely obedient to the magisterium of the Church, and I am a staunch supporter of the Constitution Party. I am absolutely committed to both.

    That being said, it seems to most people that I speak with, that party primaries should be just that – primaries for party members only. Simple and logical. I do not agree with tax payer funding of primaries, nor do I agree with an arbitrary 15% threshold to maintain qualified status. But, a growing party can deal with those, and affect change in due time.

    I personally believe that registering to vote by party would be a huge boost to building the Constitution Party. I have been working for years to get the name out there, and still 99% of everyone I come in contact with have never heard of the Constitution Party. Most conservatives are fed up with the two party system, both of which promote each others progressive ideas. Once we are able to register by party, then people will certainly be made aware of the Constitution Party and our Christian values. Where else can conservative voters turn these days? The Republican Party has demonstrated over and over again that they have no desire to legislate on conservative principles, but willingly follow the lead of the Democrats at most every turn.

    And Steve, just as a short side note here. Many non-Catholics misunderstand what the magisterium is. The magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ established this teaching authority when He established the Church 2000 years ago. He passed this authority on to the Apostles, who in turn, passed it on to other Bishops, and so on, right down to this present day. Christ did not write a Bible, nor did he issue one to the Apostles. In fact, the Apostles never saw a Bible. Christianity blossomed and spread like wild fire under the magisterium. It was not until centuries later that Our Lord’s Church presented the Bible to the world. The Bible does not declare itself to be authoritative over the Church, nor does any man on earth have the authority to declare it so. Today there are many versions of the one, true Bible – yet there is only one , true Bible. There are also many versions of the one, true Church – yet there remains only one, true Church.

    The Constitution Party is the leading political party that is fighting for true Constitutional governance. The Republicans continue to partner with their democrat buddies, which is driving more of the disenfranchised Christian conservative voters our way. The Republican Party is dying, and it is my hope that the Constitution Party will begin to grow by leaps and bounds.

  7. Test all things. As always someone has the final say in this world. An authoritative interpreter is necessary or you get what we have gotten, thousands of squabbling sects and cults and factions. The test of all things is truth and truth is another word for that which corresponds to reality.

  8. I think some of you are very much mistaken about the role of “Biblical Law” in a constitutional government, specifically a Constitutional Republic-

    “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

    -George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

    “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition… In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”

    -George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793

    “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.”

    -John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785

    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government.Truth can stand by itself.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814

    “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799

    “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814,

    “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

    -Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780

    “And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

    -James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822

    I could provide more quotes, but this is enough. However trying to interject religion into secular government is dangerous and would quickly become not just a violation of Matthew 7:1-5 and other parts of the New Testament, but could make our country no better then those parts of the Middle East that are controlled by ISIS, should our government ever take on a sectarian, theocratic tone.

    Therefore I recommend joining either the Virginia Libertarian Party, or the Independent Greens (since the IGP of Virginia is actually constitutional-oriented, despite it’s name), not just because the CP isn’t even on the ballot in the Old Dominion State- but because it has very little chance of ever achieving ballot access there.

    Another thing, I’ve known many in the CP to hold very extreme and unchristian views on government and religion; several of their state parties even prohibited members of a certain religious faith (like how the Illinois CP prohibited Catholics from holding office in their party a few years ago) from holding office or even joining their party.
    I’ve also butted heads with other CP’ers that have attacked Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, even Jews in the party.

    Look up Riley Hood, the Chairman of the Wisconsin CP, and read up on his articles and personal commentary to see just what I mean.

    I know this because I used to be a member of the CP before I finally left after having enough of the drama and infighting. And with the CP now in gradual decline at the moment (they lost ballot access in several states after last year’s elections); they are not a party to get involved in, nor will they ever achieve any serious election success in the future.

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