[Vision2020] Changing the rules in the middle of a campaign

Tom Hansen thansen at moscow.com
Fri Feb 25 05:01:22 PST 2022



Courtesy of today’s Lewiston Tribune


Changing the rules in the middle of a campaign

After it won a battle to close its primary election 11 years ago, the extreme right-wing base that controls the Idaho Republican Party came face to face with a defining moment.

The courts had said the party could limit access to its ballot. It said nothing about making it more difficult to become a Republican.

So the party activists debated among themselves: Did they want to expand the ranks of the Republican Party by attracting the largest chunk of voters — roughly 39.5% who consider themselves independents but lean toward the right on most matters — in order to continue winning elections and remaining in power?

Or would they choose ideological purity, shrinking the party to the 37.4 percent of Idahoans who already consider themselves to be Republicans?

The party chose a pragmatic solution: It would discourage Democratic crossover voting while still encouraging independents to participate in their primary.

Under those rules, people who had identified as Democrats — about 13.6 percent of Idahoans — have until March 11 to change their affiliation in order to vote in the Republican election. But those who are unaffiliated — about 310,000 Idaho voters — could register as members of the GOP and vote on primary Election Day, May 17.

Until now, that is.

Under the bill the Idaho House passed Monday by a narrow 36-to-32 margin, anyone not already registered as a Republican — either unaffiliated independents or Democrats — will have until March 11 to sign up. And because the bill has an emergency clause, it takes effect this year if the Senate passes it and Gov. Brad Little signs the measure into law.

Among those voting yes were Reps. Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston, Brandon Mitchell, R-Moscow, and Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock.

Among those who voted no were Reps. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston, and Carolyn Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee — who withdrew as a sponsor of this bill. The current sponsors are Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Rep. Doug Okuniewicz, R-Hayden.

Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, was absent.

It’s also part of a pattern. Elsewhere, Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, wants to stop same-day voter registration at the polls. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, is back with his bill to make it more difficult for house-bound seniors to have their ballots delivered. And Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, came up with a bill that would have cut the candidate filing period by one week, which could translate into fewer challengers for incumbents.

Because the GOP is so dominant in Idaho, the primary is the election that counts.The strongest Democratic opponent often is no match for even the weakest Republican candidate in the general election that follows in November. But closing the GOP nomination process has not proven as effective in ousting moderate and mainstream Republicans from public office as closed primary instigators had hoped.

In the past decade, the House has incrementally moved more toward the liking of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. But the state Senate remains in play.

anwhile, in statewide and congressional elections, the hard-right base rarely claims more than a third of the vote. Only in a crowded field of candidates — such as the five-way contest for lieutenant governor that Janice McGeachin narrowly won in 2018 — do the ideologues prevail.

Changing the rules at the last minute will make the Senate look more like the House.

It can only help IFF board member Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls defeat 2nd District Congressman Mike Simpson.

It ought to give McGeachin a boost in her attempt to oust Gov. Brad Little.

It works to the advantage of Giddings in her bid to beat House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, for lieutenant governor.

It may give either Souza or Moon an edge over Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane for secretary of state.

And disinviting more centrist voters from the GOP primary is good news for former Congressman Raul Labrador, who wants to topple Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)

Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho

“A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met.”
- Roy E. Stolworthy
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