State-level Republican party leaders in Virginia and North Carolina are reportedly considering requiring GOP presidential candidates to sign a party loyalty oath in order to obtain ballot access in the 2016 primary.
Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reasoned that “the procedural moves are clearly aimed at [Donald] Trump, who pointedly refused to rule out a third-party run during the first GOP debate.”
If the leadership committees of the Va. and N.C. Republican parties were to change the rule, it would mean that GOP candidates would be required to sign an oath pledging to support the party’s eventual nominee and to not run as an independent or under another party label in the general election.
Ballot Access News’ Richard Winger notes that courts typically rule in favor of private political parties’ authority to kick candidates off primary ballots for refusing to sign loyalty oaths. “The Texas Democratic Party had a similar oath for presidential primary candidates in 2008, and Dennis Kucinich refused to sign it. He sued to get on the Texas Democratic presidential primary ballot, but the U.S. District Court and the 5th circuit upheld the authority of the party to keep Kucinich off the presidential primary ballot. Kucinich asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, but it refused,” wrote Winger.
The Virginia Republican Party central committee’s 84 members are set to vote on the proposal on September 19. The state party’s ballot access rules are due to be submitted to the Republican National Committee by October 1. Virginia’s GOP previously pushed a similar requirement on state-level candidates during the 2013 and 2014 elections.
Republican Party of Virginia chairman John Whitbeck said that the proposal “happens to be one of the things that we are discussing for the 2016 primary” and claimed that it “isn’t about any single candidate.”
Former Va. attorney general Ken Cuccinelli reportedly supports implementing the party loyalty oath and has been lobbying on its behalf to his state party’s central committee.
North Carolina party officials are also working via conference calls to implement a party loyalty oath in advance of the October 1 deadline and have hired an attorney to draft a proposal.
The Washington Post notes that though state parties can require candidates to sign a loyalty oath to obtain ballot access in the primary, they have no real leverage to do anything to enforce the rule during the general election if the candidate were to break the oath and run third-party anyway.
“Parties are private organizations. They have the right not to be merged with the government. They are associations of people that come together and work together for common political goals, and so essentially they’re private,” said ballot access expert Richard Winger, explaining political parties’ legal basis for kicking candidates out of primary elections.
However, in the below-embedded CBS46 Atlanta Reality Check video on whether the Republican National Committee can ban Donald Trump from the debates for refusing to rule out a third-party run, Ben Swann points out the fact that “American taxpayers spent $400 million administering Republican and Democratic primaries in 2012,” raising questions about just how private those political parties are given the public funding of their primary elections.
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