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Otter says he hopes closed primary won’t hurt turnout, but ‘this is now the law’

Gov. Butch Otter has signed into law historic changes in Idaho's election system, requiring, for the first time, that all Idahoans publicly declare their party affiliation to vote in the state's primary election. "I felt that that was a compromise effort between the House and the Senate," Otter said of the closed-primary bill. "With the judge's ruling, there weren't very many other alternatives that we felt could meet constitutional muster."

Otter said he's "not an advocate of closing the primary," and said, "In fact, I think the Republican Party has done an outstanding job over the years being able to attract not only members of the Democratic Party but a majority of the independents. ... But it was an agreement that was worked out with the House and the Senate and the leadership on both sides." Otter also signed legislation to pay $100,000 to the Idaho GOP for its legal costs in suing the state to overturn the current system. You can read my full story here on the governor's assessment of this year's legislative session, which he offered in a news conference in his office today.

Asked if he thought the new system might dissuade some Idahoans from voting in the primary, Otter said, "I hope it doesn't." He said, "I've always been concerned about folks having to register for one party or another, because, you know, I think that's their personal and their quiet decision and that should be made on their own." He said, "It may be something, people just say, 'I don't want to have to declare what party I want to belong to.' But this is now the law, this is what the members of the Republican Party fought for, and that's now where we are."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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