At the Van Houtens' house in the City of Fairfax, the lawn signs cross party lines, but on June 14, the people inside won’t have that option. Although Virginia has open primaries in which voters can choose to vote for either party, this time, they cannot vote in both.
"People won’t be able to split a ticket," said John Harold, registrar of voters for the City of Fairfax.
The Van Houtens have signs for both Del. Chap Petersen (D-37) who is running for lieutenant governor and Jim Kaplan, running for the Republican nomination for the delegate seat Petersen is vacating.
When Beverly Van Houten, a self-described independent, found out that she would be confined to party politics, she was a bit upset. "I’m an independent because I want to vote for the person. Therefore, when I’m confined to only one party, I’m not happy," she said.
Her husband, Robert, agreed. "I don’t care what party they’re from, I vote for the man," he said. The Van Houtens plan to go Democratic and vote for Chap. They had not decided which of the Democratic delegate candidates they will vote for.
The impacts of not allowing crossover voters are difficult to predict, said Mark Rozell, director of the George Mason School of Public Policy. "The real wildcard is turnout," he said. The lower the turnout, the more likely that it will predominately include voters who are more closely in step with the party’s values, "that would tend to favor the more philosophically pure candidate," Rozell said.
In local politics, Rozell said, knowledge of the candidate can also be a major factor in influencing voters. "The personal connection in local politics is a huge factor," he said.
In Fairfax, Chap Petersen’s local connection may draw voters who would typically sit out the primary or vote the Republican ballot. However, those same people may decide not to cast a vote in other races. "You can cut this so many different ways," Rozell said.
THE 37TH District House seat is the only one in the state that has contested primaries for both parties. In the statewide election, the Republican Party has contested races for the governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor. Democrats only have a contested race for lieutenant governor. Virginia has not had a dual-party primary for the candidates at the state level since Aug. 2, 1949.
Candidates in the 37th are letting voters know their party, as well as their views. Kaplan has been making it clear that he is running as a Republican. He thinks that the split primary might help him because his opponent, former City of Fairfax Mayor John Mason, has previously run in non-partisan city elections, and voters may not identify him as a Republican.
Kaplan’s main concern is actually that the June 14 primary falls on a Jewish Holiday. Kaplan, who is Jewish, will have to convince more observant members of the Jewish community to vote absentee. "That’s actually impacted me more than the party issue," Kaplan said.
MASON, WHO is also running as a Republican, said he explains the situation to everyone as he is campaigning. His lawn signs, he said, tell people that he is a Republican and when the primary is. "Those signs are designed specifically for the primary," he said.
Mason is not concerned that potential voters might not identify him as a Republican. "Those who vote in primaries tend to be a little more attuned," he said.
On the Democratic side of the 37th District race, Janet Oleszek has been telling people when she’s out campaigning. "I explain that I am a Democrat and that if they want to vote for me, they need a Democratic ballot," she said.
"We’re trying to make sure that voters know that they need to choose a party ballot," said David Bulova, Oleszek's opponent. Bulova said that the dual primary will force voters to give greater consideration about who they are voting for before they go to pick up a ballot.
Scott McPherson is also running for delegate in the 37th District. A Libertarian, McPherson faces no challenger in his party.