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ACLU of Virginia

530 East Main Street, Suite 310 Richmond, Virginia 23219 (804) 644-8022
January 5, 2012 Via Facsimile (804-343-1060) State Central Committee Republican Party of Virginia The Richard D. Obenshain Center 115 E. Grace Street Richmond, VA 23219 Dear Committee Members: I write to urge the Republican Party of Virginia to rescind the requirement that voters in Virginias Republican primary sign a pledge to support the Party nominee. The ACLU of Virginia believes that this requirement is unconstitutional, and is prepared to sue the Party on behalf of affected Republican voters if the pledge requirement remains in place. The pledge requirement places severe burdens on Republican voters. Some voters who are bona fide Republicans may yet find it impossible to state, in advance, that they will agree to vote for a nominee other than the candidate they support. Voters who do not feel that they can make this promise in good faith will be deterred from exercising their right to vote in the Republican primary. Additionally, some Republican voters who do intend to support the eventual nominee but value the secret ballot may not wish to proclaim their intentions publicly by signing a loyalty oath. For these reasons, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated a West Virginia requirement that voters signing a nominating petition for a third-party candidate must declare that they desire to vote for that candidate. Socialist Workers Party v. Hechler, 890 F.2d 1303 (4th Cir. 1989). The court held that such a requirement undermined the right to a secret ballot, and chilled voters participation in the minority party nominating process. The Republican Party of Virginias proposed pledge is similarly constitutionally flawed. The ACLU of Virginia appreciates the Partys right to protect its organizational integrity by preventing those who oppose the Partys goals from helping to choose its nominee. But this right is protected by Virginias statutes allowing political parties to opt for a privately run nominating process, such as a caucus or convention, rather than a state-run, state-funded primary. [A] party is free to select from various methods of nomination in which it can exclude voters who do not share its views. . . . It is only when the party chooses to hold a primary operated and funded by the state that it must allow all voters to participate. Miller v. Brown, 503 F.3d 360, 368 (4th Cir. 2007). For these reasons, we ask that the Party respect the First Amendment rights of Republican voters and rescind the loyalty oath requirement. Sincerely,

Rebecca K. Glenberg Legal Director