On June 11, the Commonwealth of Virginia will hold a primary election in which both parties are invited to participate. This year, the primaries will help voters pick candidates for several local offices as well as every seat in the House of Delegates and state Senate.
The Prince William County Republican Committee has chosen not to participate in the state-run primary and will instead hold their own, privately-run nominating process for local offices this Saturday, May 4.
In Virginia, political parties are free to run their own primaries outside the state-run process. Sometimes, this is necessary. For example, both the local Republican and Democratic committees held private nominating contests in February to pick candidates for the special election to fill the late John Jenkins’ term on the board of supervisors.
Sometimes, parties choose a private nominating process even when a state-run primary is available. This is both unnecessary and regrettable because such contests are inherently exclusionary.
This Saturday, the Prince William County GOP will hold just such an event. Their party-run "firehouse primary" will likely exclude several thousand voters who might like to participate but will be unable to do so. Why is that?
For starters, the party will open only eight polling places instead of the 100 usually available in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park. Also, voting will span only five hours, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., instead of the Election Day standard of 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
What's more, the firehouse primary is happening on a Saturday when lots of people travel or are busy with family obligations, and there will be no opportunity to cast absentee ballots.
Local Republicans say party-run primaries helps ensure only Republican voters pick Republican candidates. It seems more likely they will actually exclude far more Republican voters than they will serve.
We're happy to report that local Republicans in Fauquier County are not making the same mistake this year. The party will participate in the June 11 state-run primary, which guarantees the process will be as accessible to voters as any Virginia election.
When it comes to picking candidates for these important local offices, we respectfully suggest that Prince William Republicans follow the lead of their neighbors to the west. Do they want to grow their party and win elections? If so, they should invite as many voters as possible into the primary process.