Could Democrats Influence GOP Primary?

May 11, 2018

Credit MBandman / Creative Commons

Virginia holds a primary election on June 12th, but in some  places there’s no Democratic ballot.  In the 5th Congressional District, for example, the party chose their candidate through a caucus and convention, and Tim Kaine is running unopposed for U.S. Senate.  Dedicated Democrats could, however, ask for a Republican ballot.

Virginia is one of 18 states where voters don’t register as a Democrat or Republican  if they want to take part in primary elections.  Here, a Democrat can request a Republican ballot and vice versa.

“I guess you could see a few hard core partisans crossing over in the 3rd Congressional District, for instance, where Bobby Scott is unopposed,” says Geoffrey Skelley,  a political analyst at UVA’s Center for Politics. 

He doubts many Democrats will vote in the GOP primary, but the Republican race for U.S. Senate presents a real choice between tea party candidate Corey Stewart and traditional conservative Delegate Nick Freitas.

“It could be very close," Skelley adds. "A lot of establishment type Republicans in Virginia really dislike Corey Stewart and so in that sense Freitas might end up being the defacto establishment candidate, because he’s not as much of a bomb thrower as Stewart is.”

Skelley doesn’t know of any data showing voters can swing a race by crossing over, and if early voter turn-out is any indication, it won’t happen in predominantly Democratic Albemarle County where Jake Washburn is registrar.

“Up until this morning, we had had zero in person absentee voters, but we had a flurry activity – we’ve had three just this morning, and we’ve mailed out 23 absentee ballots," Washburn says.

Still, the prospect of crossover voting worries some Republican lawmakers enough that they’ve proposed a loyalty oath at the polls – or a change in state law to require registration by party.