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Idaho GOP mulls open primaries

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Idaho Republican Party convention delegates in Twin Falls likely skirted a renewed, potentially messy internal fight over their party’s closed primary by recommending the issue be studied, not addressed head-on.

According to a resolution that cleared a convention committee Friday, state leaders will be asked to scrutinize the 2012 closed primary’s consequences on turnout and Republican success before deciding if changes are necessary for 2014. The Republican Party limited its May 15 primary election to registered GOP voters due to concerns that Democrats were crossing over and skewing results.

Some Republicans, including Gov. Butch Otter, want to undo it.

But instead of taking up a resolution pushing an open primary at their Twin Falls confab, delegates agreed to study the matter, on grounds that rehashing the old question would reignite feuds.

Trent Clark, a delegate from Soda Springs who authored the compromise plan, said he’d normally push for an open primary, but tackling the issue now, just weeks after the first closed primary, would only deepen the divide between entrenched factions and make the Republican Party appear divided.

Last month just 24 percent of registered voters turned out for the election, the lowest turnout in Idaho primary history.

There are plenty of potential explanations, but Otter and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa contend that the closed primary contributed to driving independent voters away from the polls because they didn’t want to participate in an election where their party affiliation would become public.

Otter and Ysursa, both Republicans, want to see the old system restored.


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