Much is at stake in Idaho's May 15 primary election, from hotly contested county races to every seat in the Legislature, in a state where many of those races will be decided in the Republican primary.
But this year, for the first time ever, no one can vote in the GOP primary unless they register as a Republican – and more than a third of Idaho's voters identify themselves as independents. Add that to primaries that draw very low turnouts that have been dropping for years, redistricting that's added to voter confusion by shifting many into different districts with unfamiliar candidates, and the lack of a presidential primary, since both state parties already handled that with caucuses. “You could have a weak fringe candidate win in a primary like that,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy and longtime Idaho political observer.
Efforts are under way to inform voters and encourage greater turnout, including state-funded billboards, ads and posters, and extra poll-worker training. But if few heed that call, political convulsions could result, potentially sealing the fate of longtime lawmakers or giving an avowed white supremacist a shot at becoming the elected sheriff of Bonner County. You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.