By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
WARRENTON, Va. – Republicans in heavily GOP Fauquier County are feuding over the outcome of a local party election.
A group led by former committeeman Cameron Jones charges that Democratic sympathizers hijacked the vote – and they want a new canvass.
New county GOP Chairman Scott Russell, who defeated Jones, says, “I have never and will never support Democrats voting in a Republican Party Canvass.”
“The main reason that there is any debate is because Virginia does not allow for registering by party affiliation. If the commonwealth did allow it, all of these issues would go away immediately,” Russell said.
Jones says he has been refused access to voter rolls to track past voting patterns, but he says he can prove the local party did not take reasonable steps to bar Democrats from voting in the GOP election.
A petition for a new vote will be submitted to party officials on May 10, Jones said. His challenge was buttressed by a stinging editorial in the Fauquier Free Citizen.
Russell said he shares the concern about internal-election integrity in a state that does not register voters by party.
“Unfortunately, we are left with no party affiliation and having a bunch of different definitions as to what a Democrat is,” Russell said.
“Some folks say if someone financially supports a Democrat, they must be a Democrat. Would Charles and David Koch be Democrats because they have given money to Democrat candidates in the past?”
Virginia Republican Party rules declare “a person otherwise qualified (to vote in a GOP primary) shall not have participated in Virginia in the nomination process of a party other than the Republican Party within the last five years.”
“So,” asks Russell, “would (GOP state House delegate and congressional candidate) Barbara Comstock or any of the other Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary of 2008 be Democrats?”
Russell said intraparty squabbles could be solved “immediately” by allowing voter registration by party — as is done in most, but not all, states.
David C.F. Ray, a Republican state committeeman, said efforts to require party registration have failed repeatedly in Virginia — and for good reason.
“Party registration is another way of dragging the government into our organization,” Ray said in an interview with Watchdog.org.
“Once you do it, you give government all the power and authority. (Government) can say a person is a Republican, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Under state law, Geoffrey Skelley, spokesman for the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said “political shenanigans like Fauquier’s have happened before and they’ll happen again, especially in very low turnout events.
“All someone really needs to do is get a good number of supporters to come out and vote to have a shot at winning,” he said.
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward