Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Testimony of RPV Chairman Pat Mullins Before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee

"Madame Chairman, Members of the Committee, good morning.

My name is Pat Mullins and I am Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. I'm here this morning to ask that you strongly consider adopting some form of Party Registration in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I believe this is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon. Political parties exist to support a set of core principles and elect candidates who advocate for those core principles. Party volunteers put in countless hours of work every cycle to be sure that the candidates who support their shared principles win in November. Those nominees shouldn't be chosen by people who are members of another political party and who will actively work to defeat them.

Voluntary registration by political party would let voters declare their intentions, and then let the two parties act accordingly. Parties would no longer be forced to ask for a pledge of support at the polling place in order to keep those who are playing for another team from calling the play. Voluntary registration by party represents the best possible compromise between encouraging participation and discouraging partisan mischief-making.

We know of many examples where Democratic voters voted in a Republican primary in order to influence the Republican nomination choice and where Republican voters voted in a Democratic primary to influence the Democrats' nomination. Nearly 1 million voters participated in Virginia's 2008 presidential primary. We Republicans knew that our nominee would be John McCain by the time Virginia's primary occurred. I can assure you that some Republicans exercised their rights under Virginia law to influence the Democratic choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That's not fair to the Parties and it violates their First Amendment rights.

Establishing a party-preference registration system not unlike the ones before you today would strike the best possible balance between Virginia's tradition of open primaries and the need for controversial loyalty pledges.

I know in recent days my party has been criticized for asking the State Board of Elections to require that Republican presidential primary voters sign an intent form which states that they intend to support our nominee for President this fall. If Party Registration was permitted in Virginia, we would not have needed to make that request.

The fact remains that both Democrats and Republicans should be able to choose our nominees without involvement from the other party. A voluntary registration system like the one before you would ensure that no party ever needed to require a loyalty pledge again. And while I fully expect the Republican State Central Committee to overwhelmingly vote to rescind the intent pledge later this week, each political party has profound First Amendment rights and voluntary party registration would protect those rights.

I think both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon this basic principle, and I would like to ask all of you to strongly consider adopting Party Registration legislation this session."

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