The Republican Party of Virginia has no interest in thoughtful voters. It only wants mindless party loyalists who will vote Republican no matter what.
That's the sad message of a new GOP policy for next year's presidential primary approved by the State Board of Elections this week. People who want to vote in it must sign a loyalty oath swearing their intent to vote in November for the party's nominee, whomever that winds up being.
A Republican voter might look at the primary contenders and conclude Mike Huckabee is the best choice. That voter might also decide he would never vote for Rudy Giuliani. Perhaps he would look for a Libertarian or independent alternative.
Or it could be just the opposite. Perhaps a would-be Republican voter finds Huckabee unsupportable, or Fred Thompson or Mitt Romney.
The oath precludes such careful analysis and leaves Republicans three options:
Lie. Virginia's ballots are still secret; no one will know if you vote against the party nominee.
Stay home from the Feb. 12 election and keep your options open.
Commit to an unknown Republican candidate nine months before the election.
Honorable Virginians do not give their word lightly and will not lie, even under these obtuse circumstances. We hope, too, that they put candidates' ideas, character and experience ahead of party affiliation.
Honest, responsible voters therefore can only skip the primary.
That, obviously, was not the goal of the Republican loyalty oath. The oath is an outgrowth of Virginia's open primaries and a two-party system that prizes power over all else.
Democrats are susceptible to such electoral foolishness, too. In Roanoke, Democrats who want to help pick the party's city council candidates must vow to support the party's nominees.
Virginians do not register by party, so anyone, even a Democratic-leaning voter, can participate in the GOP primary and skew the results. Though there is scant evidence such crossover voting ever influences elections, political parties deserve the right to control who selects their candidates. They are private organizations, after all.
Anyone who needed more evidence that Virginia's election system is broken has it. Why bother having the election at all? Just count how many Virginians sign away their intent to cast an informed vote.