Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump launched a Twitter barrage Sunday against the Republican Party of Virginia over a nine-word “statement of affiliation” it using to ensure primary voters are in fact Republicans.
The state party is requiring voters on March 1 to sign a document under the statement, “My signature below indicates that I am a Republican,” which Trump contends is an attempt to “disallow independent, unaffiliated and new voters.” The problem: he’s wrong.
The voter pledge was adopted by the state party because Virginia does not have partisan voter registration, meaning there is no easy way to ensure that only Republican voters cast ballots in the primary, as is the case in Iowa, Nevada and many other states. In New Hampshire, unaffiliated voters may vote in the primary. South Carolina does not have party registration.
Republican National Committee rules require that state parties work to ensure that only Republicans vote in their primaries. “Only persons eligible to vote who are deemed as a matter of public record to be Republicans pursuant to state law or, if voters are not enrolled by party, by Republican Party rules of a state, shall participate in any primary election,” the party’s bylaws state. The Virginia statement was designed to conform to that requirement.
The statement has been construed as an “oath” or “pledge,” but carries no force of law or enforcement mechanism. And while some in the conservative grassroots—along with Trump—have criticized the state party as trying to keep unaffiliated voters from the primary, there’s nothing stopping an unaffiliated voter from signing the statement. In fact, the Virginia primary is substantially more open than other states where Trump has not lodged a complaint which require voters to be registered as Republicans.
In a statement earlier this month, the John Findlay, the executive director of the state party, addressed criticism of the signature requirement: