Just Another Brick in the Wall

During the 2022 legislative session, the GOP majority took steps to make it harder for unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot in state primary elections. The proposed bill forced unaffiliated voters to choose a party affiliation by the candidate filing date. This obscure deadline, which is unknown to most voters, occurs months in advance of a given election. Consequently, it makes it hard for voters to make affiliation changes on short notice. Previously, unaffiliated voters could sign up as a party member on Election Day when they arrived at the polls. This flexibility allowed them to choose a party and immediately vote in their respective primary.

According to the latest data from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, unaffiliated voters make up the second-largest voting bloc in Idaho, accounting for 31% of all voters. Idaho Republicans closed their primary in 2007. Given the fact that many elections are decided during the primary, HB439 just put another obstacle in the way of unaffiliated voters who wish to vote in the GOP primary.  “This is another example of extremist efforts within the Idaho Republican Party to close ranks and exclude a majority of Idahoans from the ballot box,” said Avery Roberts, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party.

Independent (Unaffiliated) Voters Sway Elections

Most Independent voters are moderates who lean either Democrat or Republican. However, it can be impossible to determine how many are undecided or simply not politically inclined. Nonetheless, it is easy to determine just how important their votes are.

Independent voters often determine the outcome of elections. That is why most candidates and political pundits emphasize that winning over independents is key to securing a win. In Idaho, election outcomes are often decided in the primaries. In other words, the leading conservative candidate coming out of the primary is the likely winner in November.

The choice in primary elections often comes down to temperament. Generally, moderates vote for centrist leadership while extremists hold to the candidate who most closely holds to their party ideology. This is why the GOP is against open primaries. They do not want moderate votes swaying their election results. Democrats on the other hand, welcome unaffiliated voters and allow them to cast a ballot in their primaries.

Restoring Open Access to All Voters

That is why a coalition of community groups, including Reclaim Idaho launched a ballot initiative to hold open primaries and implement ranked choice voting in Idaho. The Open Primaries Initiative seeks to create a nonpartisan primary system that is open to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. If adopted, all voters would participate in the primary election without having to declare a party affiliation. Moreover, all primary candidates would appear on a single open primary ballot. The top four vote-getters would move on to the general election, even if they all belong to the same party. The ranked choice ballot would allow every voter to list their preferred candidates from first to last. More importantly, it would allow every voter to have a meaningful role in the outcome of every election.

Idahoans for Open Primaries

This initiative is currently underway and needs your help to ensure that this important measure appears on the ballot in November 2024. So, when given the chance, please sign the petition. Also, consider collecting signatures among your friends and neighbors or signing up to help at a public gathering. For more information go to IdahoansforOpenPrimaries.org or email info@openprimariesid.org.

Guest Post by Brian Wright

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