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The evidence for, against closing Idaho’s primary elections

Here’s what the Idaho Republican Party considers proof that the state’s open primaries violate its constitutional rights: Too many conservative Republicans are losing to moderate Republicans. In a stack of affidavits and documentation submitted as part of a federal court case, the party contends that crossover voting by independents and Democrats in GOP primaries is the only explanation for those victories; in one case, the party argues that a twice-elected GOP lawmaker, Stan Bastian, was actually a Democrat in disguise.

Former one-term state Rep. Henry Kulczyk, R-Eagle, in an affidavit, contends that his 2004 primary election loss to Bastian was the doing of the Democrats. “I believe that Stan Bastian was a Democrat running in my primary race as a Republican,” Kulczyk said. “I lost a Republican primary to a Democrat by votes of Democrat voters. If it wasn’t for that, I would have still had the House seat when it was all done. That is a travesty.”

Bastian disagrees, and so does the state, which hired two professors to do extensive studies that concluded Idaho is the most one-party-dominated state in the nation and there’s no evidence crossover voting has affected its election outcomes at all. Instead, the current election system has resulted in a highly polarized state Legislature in which lawmakers generally vote along party lines, the professors found, and all GOP lawmakers identified in the lawsuit as “liberals” were actually “in the mainstream of Republicans in the state of Idaho.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see the state’s expert report analyzing the voting records of Idaho’s state legislators here.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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