Idaho voters go to the polls Tuesday - they’re open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. - for the first election under the state’s new closed-primary system.
That means that for first the first time ever, Idaho voters must register by party. And while they can choose to register as a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, a Constitution Party member, or unaffiliated, only those who register as Republicans can vote in the GOP primary. Republicans dominate Idaho politics; in Kootenai County, there aren’t even any Democrats running for any of the local county offices on the ballot.
Democrats have chosen to keep their primary open to anyone, regardless of affiliation. The decision can be made on arrival at the polls, if voters haven’t already registered their party with the state.
“This is the law and that’s what’s required,” said Kootenai County elections chief Carrie Phillips. “It’s new for all of us.”
Once registered and affiliated, Idaho voters must choose one of three ballots: GOP, if they’re registered Republican; Democratic; or the non-partisan ballot, which will contain only unopposed judicial races and, in some areas, local bond or levy proposals. Those choices also appear on both parties’ ballots. In Kootenai County, a levy proposal from the Northern Lakes Fire Protection District will be included.
Both the voter’s party affiliation and which ballot the voter chose will become public record, and anyone can look it up.
“There is no privacy in your selection,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. He’s advising patience. With all the new steps, he said, “It’s going to take a little longer to vote.”
Topping the ticket is the race for the 1st Congressional District seat, but it’s received little notice in the primary, as freshman GOP incumbent Raul Labrador faces only a token challenge from truck driver Reed McCandless of Moscow. On the Democratic side, former NFL football player and Lewiston native Jimmy Farris also faces just token opposition in his bid to challenge Labrador in November.
Hotter races are on the ticket for state legislative seats, including tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart’s faceoff with three Republican primary challengers; and county offices, including a five-way race for one Kootenai County commission seat and a three-way contest for another.
In Bonner County, four-term state Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, is taking on county Commission Chairman Cornel Rasor in the GOP primary.
And there are even hotly contested races around North Idaho for usually low-profile GOP precinct committee positions, as factions with the Republican Party square off.
Idaho’s legislative districts have been redrawn since the last election, and many polling locations have changed. To check districts and where to vote, go to the Idaho Secretary of State’s voter website, www.idahovotes.gov.