When it comes to nominating our nation’s presidents, Idahoans want and deserve a voice. Both major political parties have seen the wisdom in moving from the arduous caucus system to a presidential primary election where Democratic and Republican voters can cast a ballot for their choice. This year, a major legislative blunder took away voters’ ability to cast these votes. Now, urgent legislative action is needed to give this power back to the people of Idaho.
Idaho Democrats supported legislation to consolidate Idaho’s presidential and state primary elections, saving public dollars while safeguarding voter participation. As the bill moved through the legislature this year, a drafting flaw was discovered. This technical error eliminated the March primary rather than moving it to May. A correction, in the form of a “trailer bill,” was introduced to uphold the intent of the original legislation. However, the correction was rejected by far-right Republicans as the Legislature was set to adjourn. Gov. Little signed the flawed bill into law knowing the fix had been stalled.
Without a presidential primary comes an unwanted outcome for voters: we must revert to an outdated caucus system. While the original legislation was meant to increase participation, the opposite will now occur. Rather than heading to their normal polling location to cast a ballot, Idahoans will have to travel much further, arrive at a set time, and sit through hours of deliberation. For many voters — especially working people, the elderly, and families with young kids — these barriers will prevent them from having a say in the presidential nomination process.
Under a caucus, party bosses have near-unfettered control. They can decide where caucuses are held, how convenient they are, who gets to speak, and more – essentially putting their thumbs on the scale to skew results. This is not only deeply unfair, it is also undemocratic.
Consolidating power to engineer election results favoring the more extreme far-right has become the theme of today’s Idaho Republican Party. They successfully locked up their primary election to keep out independents and anyone who chooses not to formally affiliate as a Republican for any reason. The result is increasingly extreme conservative politicians getting elected to positions of enormous power.
Republicans’ far-right party leadership is now ready to seize control of the presidential nominating process, taking away the rights of Idaho’s Republican voters. Democratic voters who lost their right to cast a ballot in the presidential primary are collateral damage.
Our democracy works best when more people can participate, not fewer. The way to ensure Idaho voters – of every party – have their say in our presidential nomination process is to hold a special legislative session and reinstate the presidential primary election.
Lauren Necochea, Idaho Democratic Party Chair