September 16, 2010 in Idaho

Older voters mobilize in Idaho

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

AARP officials and volunteers gather on the Idaho state capitol steps to launch an unprecedented statewide voter education campaign aimed at this year’s state and legislative races.
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - The Idaho AARP is launching a statewide voter-education effort complete with voter guides for every legislative race in the state along with statewide and congressional races, meetings and discussions with its members throughout the state to bring them up to speed on issues before they vote, and more.

Why that matters: The group estimates that 56 percent of Idaho’s votes in November will come from voters age 50 and older, and 30 percent of all ballots will be cast by AARP members.

“The 50-plus in Idaho and across the nation is a voting powerhouse,” said AARP volunteer C.J. Petrovsky of Eagle. “We’re going to help them get the facts, learn the candidates’ positions on key issues and raise their voices.”

Petrovsky was among a group of AARP officials and volunteers who gathered on the state Capitol steps today to kick off the effort, which also will include advertising in print, online and on the radio, with the theme, “Your right, your decision, your vote.”

“This is the first time ever we’ve done a voter guide for every single race in the state, and the first time the questions came directly from our members,” said Jim Wordelman, state director for AARP in Idaho.

Response from candidates has been strong, he said, with about 100 state candidates responding. For those candidates who didn’t respond, AARP is urging its members to continue to ask them where they stand on the issues.

The voter guides for state and legislative races went up online today at www.aarp.org/yourvote, and the congressional guides will be up the first week of October.

For state races, AARP members chose the state budget as their top issue, but the second-top issue is a “conscience” law that Idaho’s Legislature enacted this year. It lets any health care provider refuse to provide end-of-life care that violates the provider’s conscience, and AARP says it threatens Idahoans’ rights to have their living wills and advance care directives honored.

Gov. Butch Otter allowed the controversial measure to become law without his signature.

“A lot of people are worried about the conscience law,” said David Irwin, AARP spokesman. “Our members are looking for whoever they vote for to fix this thing.” He added, “We went to our members. … These are their issues.”

Education funding, re-examining tax exemptions, campaign financing and addressing Idaho’s doctor shortage also are issues covered in the guides; the congressional voter guides will focus on the future of Social Security, Medicare fraud, access to doctors for Medicare beneficiaries and how the candidates will help older workers get back to work.

The voter guides are available to anyone; the member meetings will start with a Sept. 27 gathering in Coeur d’Alene and continue around the state.


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