Ah, Memorial Day weekend. In Idaho it means military ceremonies, hikes and bike rides, the opening of fishing season on rivers and streams, three days off, the year’s first camping trip for some, and if the weather cooperates, a taste of the summer to come. But for Idahoans who are unpacking their gear, getting the kids back to school and returning to the groove of the work week on Tuesday after the three-day weekend, there’s something else that’s easy to overlook: It’s Election Day. Idaho’s primary election has been held on the fourth Tuesday in May since 1980, when it moved from its previous August date. That means that in 45 percent of election years, it falls on the day after the Memorial Day holiday. Who’s thinking politics on that often-hectic day? Typically, fewer than a third of the state’s registered voters.
“We hope we’re looking at about a 30 percent turnout of registered voters,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “Which would be better than 2004, but not quite as high as 2000.” The last time Idaho’s primary election fell on the day after the holiday, in 2002, turnout actually was the second highest on record, at 33.6 percent. “Candidates and issues make turnout,” Ysursa said. “And it’s all relative. We don’t like our primaries to say we have good turnouts when we’re in the 30 percents, but that’s reality.” He said, “I’d just encourage the folks to get out and exercise their right, because there are important races.”
Below are some reasons to make sure and vote, whether it’s by casting a ballot in advance or going to the polls on the Tuesday after the holiday weekend. And you can click here for information on the 10 candidates facing off Tuesday for Idaho’s open U.S. Senate seat; click here to learn about the two candidates facing off in the GOP primary for the 1st District congressional seat; and click here to read about the two choices in the non-partisan race for the Idaho Supreme Court.