Republicans in the Virginia Senate certainly think so. The GOP majority on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee earlier today passed such a measure on a strictly party line vote of 8-to-7. [read_more]
The measure, offered by Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), would add party affiliation to the information requested of voters, who would be allowed to register as independent if they do not choose one of the qualified political parties (which, going forward, would be any party with at least 15% of registered voters, an awfully high bar for the Libertarian Party or any others). It would take effect in advance of any primary contests in 2016. A companion measure in the House of Delegates has been introduced by Del. Steve Landes (R-Augusta).
Passage of party registration does have the potential to eliminate the kinds of intraparty strife the GOP has seen in recent years, much of which centers on importation of Democrats and other non-Republicans into GOP contests (be they high-profile primary elections, or small-scale local canvasses or mass meetings). Party registration would provide an objective bright line measure of whether the person belongs to the Party. Yet, reservations remain among many rank and file Republicans who have philosophical objections to the state having a registry reflecting individuals’ political beliefs, and among others who suspect (not without good reason, I might add) that party registration is simply allowing the camel’s nose under the tent (i.e., the first step to government regulation of political association and speech).
Democrats have little reason to favor party registration, so it is unclear what the chances either of these bills have of becoming law. Democrats do not face the same dilemma as Republicans, who in most locales across the Commonwealth constitute the only political game in town, and thus attractive targets for people who do not feel constrained by such requirements as actually having to be a member of the party to vote in its elections. Conventional wisdom says that, if Republicans really want it, the Governor won’t sign it unless there has been a deal made for Republican support of some other priority of the Governor’s. Legislative sources have suggested to The Bull Elephant that the Governor is expected to veto any party registration measure that reaches his desk.