Initial reports are suggesting a light turnout for today's first-ever closed primary election in Idaho, though that could still change, since the 5-8 p.m. time is the heaviest voting period of the day. “From 5 to 8, you either make it or break it,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “We just don't know.”
When I voted around 2:30 p.m. (non-partisan ballot only), things were anything but busy, and the poll workers said they'd only seen about 100 people so far, a turnout comparable to the Greater Boise Auditorium District election last year. Said Ysursa, “Auditorium district elections are not big-turnout elections.”
His office usually gets lots of calls on Election Day from voters unsure of where to go to vote; this year, he said, “I think people know where to vote - we're not getting those.” His office is offering a handy polling place location lookup on its website, www.idahovotes.gov. But those typical calls have been dwarfed by calls about the new closed GOP primary and new party registration system. “The No. 1 call is people complaining a little bit about why in the heck is my party preference a public record, and why are we doing this,” Ysursa said. “We did expect those calls.”
The reason: The Idaho Republican Party sued the state and won, overturning the previous primary election system, allowing it to close its primary to anyone other than registered Republicans, and bringing official registration by party to Idaho for the first time since statehood.