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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: primary election

What the voting records show…

When two professors, Washington University law professor and political science department Chair Andrew Martin and Colorado State University political scientist Kyle Saunders, analyzed every vote cast in the Idaho Legislature, they found no evidence that Democratic crossover voting in Idaho’s primary elections has resulted in the election of “Republicans in name only” who actually vote like Democrats. Instead, they found that all of Idaho’s GOP lawmakers voted more conservatively than the state’s Democratic lawmakers. The only very small overlap was in the House, where a couple of conservative Democrats overlapped the most liberal Republicans in voting records - chiefly Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard, who voted more conservatively than two GOP House members in 2005-06 and than one, Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, in 2007-08.

Click here to see a chart showing the breakdown for House and Senate for the 2008-08 session. The Senate shows no overlap among Republican and Democratic members’ voting patterns at all; Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Moscow, whom the professors showed had the most liberal voting record of all GOP senators from 2003 to 2008, still voted more conservatively than every Democratic senator in every session. Schroeder was defeated in the GOP primary this year by a more conservative candidate, Gresham Dale Bouma.

The politics of parties…

An expert report commissioned by the state to defend its current primary election laws in a federal lawsuit includes this insight into party politics: Political parties in America have three “interrelated components,” according to the state’s experts, Andrew Martin of Washington University in St. Louis and Kyle Saunders of Colorado State University: The party in the electorate, the party in government, and the party organization. The party organization is the most ideologically extreme of the three; its goal is to promote the party label and positions and motivate its activists.

Party members who are elected to office tend to be less extreme; their goal is “to continue winning elections and therefore hold power.” That requires moderate enough views to appeal to a general election constituency.

The party in the electorate - voters who identify with the party - are the least ideologically extreme of the three groups. Their goal is “to vote and have their voice heard.”

Closed primaries lead to more-extreme candidates, the two professors wrote, with old-fashioned party “machine” politics the most-extreme example. “Open primaries produce less ideologically extreme candidates than closed primaries, and produce candidates that are more representative of the party in the electorate as well as the overall electorate,” they wrote. “Open primaries increase citizen engagement as well as voter turnout in primary and general elections.”

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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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