Virginia is one of nearly 20 states that hold open primaries, meaning Democrats and independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primaries and vice versa, according to FairVote.org.
It's unclear whether Democrats or independents will choose to vote in in Virginia -- or what the extent of their impact will be.
But it happened in Michigan, where last-minute robo-calls asked Democrats to vote for . Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won, but not by a huge margin.
On Tuesday, , the Republican frontrunner, will be on the ballot in Virginia along with Texas Congressman They are the .
It's possible Democrats could cross over to to try to skew results against Romney. It's also possible that Republican backers of and Rick Santorum might vote for Paul so Romney won’t reach the 50 percent needed to capture the state's at-large delegates.
On a Newt Gingrich forum, “Marianne for Newt” wrote: "… If you are a true Newt supporter, the best you can do is vote for Ron Paul and keep Romney from winning more delegates. This IS the way you should vote in order to send a message to your Governor & the rest of the establishment GOP supporting Willard Romney. Don't get mad—get even."
The idea of Democrats crossing over to cause problems isn't lost on the state's Republicans.
“I realize that one of the challenges with Virginia’s current open primary system is the possibility that our primary could be influenced by Democrats or other voters who do not have the best interest of our party or candidates at heart,” Virginia Lt. Gov Bill Bolling wrote to fellow Republicans. “That is a legitimate concern, and that is why I have always supported and continue to support voluntary party registration in Virginia.”
No Loyalty Oath Required
In December, the Virginia State Board of Elections approved a loyalty oath that Republicans wanted voters to sign before voting: “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee of the Republican Party for president,”
However, there was no way to enforce the pledge; after the proposal caused vocal public opposition it was dropped.
Some Republicans question the motives of Democrats who might vote on Tuesday.
"Well, how pure is their heart?" asked Jayne Young of Oakton, president of the New Providence Republican Women. "Are they voting because they think they're voting for a good Republican candidate? Or are they voting for the weakest candidate because they think it would be easier for their party?”
“But it's a level playing field,” she pointed out, “because [Republicans can vote in Democratic primaries]. So it does give you pause. Is the outcome a true representation of whom Republicans want? Or is it skewed by Democrats who hope to win later? And vice versa. It's obviously legal, but I do think it would be unethical. It goes back to pureness of heart. I haven't heard that it would be a big problem this year, though."
Bob Lorenson, a Democrat from Mount Vernon who works at in Old Town Alexandria, said he had no plans to vote in Tuesday’s primary. “Well, I might,” he added. “... I’d probably vote for Ron Paul just for the fun of it.”
Crossover Votes Will Be Minimal, County Republican Leader Predicts
Some Republicans doubt crossovers will make much of an impact in Virginia. “I think it can skew the results of a close race if there is an organized effort by one party to impact another party's nomination,” said Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republicans.
“But for the most part, the crossover in a primary is minimal," he said. "We certainly welcome any disaffected Democratic voters to come support a Republican candidate if they believe that candidate is the right one to lead this country. I'm sure there are some Democrats who are not happy with the results of the ‘hope and change’ they were sold by President Obama. Those voters we welcome…. Anytime.”
Last week in Michigan, exit polls showed 9 percent of Michigan voters identified themselves as Democrats, USA Today reported. More than half of those voters, or 53 percent, said they voted for Santorum while 18 percent chose Romney.
A Democrat in Michigan who voted for Rick Santorum, told CNN: “I think it’s the right thing to do, strategically…” Asked how it made them feel crossing over and voting for a Republican: “Kind of dirty. I went home and took a shower and then I felt fine.”
On Fox, Bill O'Reilly asked Romney about Democrats voting in Michigan. “So why do you think Democrats voted for Senator Santorum in Michigan; it was an open primary. Why do you think they did that, Governor?” O’Reilly asked.
“Well, they got the news from everyone, from Michael Moore to Barack Obama's team—to frankly Rick Santorum as well—saying 'Go play mischief in the Republican Party,'” Romney said.
With new rules, a candidate must get 50 percent or more of the vote on Tuesday to get all of Virginia’s delegates. At stake Tuesday in Virginia are 46 delegates, including 33 apportioned among the state's 11 congressional districts. Whoever wins each congressional district wins all three delegates from that district.
Another 13 at-large delegates will be allocated proportionally based upon the statewide vote. Any candidate under 15 percent of the vote will receive no delegates. The at-large delegates will be "winner-take all" if a candidate receives a majority (50.001 percent) of the state-wide vote. That leaves three of Virginia’s delegates who are "unbound."
Patch editors Rachel Leonard, Jason Spencer and Nicole Trifone contributed to this story.