BOISE – Idaho’s closed Republican primary drew more criticism after an Elmore County GOP official east of Boise withdrew his party affiliation – just hours after winning his second term as a Republican precinct committeeman.
The Idaho Statesman reported Geoff Schroeder made the move to have himself declared “unaffiliated” following the May 15 election to protest the new law that allows only registered Republicans to vote in the party’s primaries.
He’s among party members including Gov. Butch Otter who have concluded the closed primary alienates voters because it makes their choice of ballot a matter of public record and compromises their privacy.
The GOP is “leering over … a list of who is and who isn’t declared as a Republican, a creepy aspect of government that is done by people like Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler,” Schroeder said. “I’m not going to be a part of it.”
Schroeder, whose automobile sports an “Atheist” personalized license plate, disagrees with the move by Idaho’s majority party two years ago to sue the state to force the closed primary.
The 2011 Idaho Legislature adopted the closed primary after a federal judge sided with closure proponents who wanted to limit election participation and prevent crossover voting by independents and Democrats. Closed-primary advocates feared the open primary was skewing elections toward GOP candidates less loyal to Republican principles.
Idaho now is among 20 states that have closed primaries.
After Schroeder stepped out of the party following his election, some Elmore County GOP members wanted to remove him from his precinct post at a meeting on Aug. 23, according to footage of a video recording taken by one of Schroeder’s friends who accompanied him to the meeting.
As Schroeder looked on while wearing a “Darwin” T-shirt, GOP Chairman Barry Peterson – a former Elmore County chairman before his election to the top state office in June – urged colleagues to oust him.
“He’s chosen by his own actions which way he wants to go,” Peterson told the Elmore GOP Central Committee, according to the footage. “Let him go.”
Schroeder survived, however, after pulling out a letter from Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden indicating the party had no power to boot him.
“There’s nothing that we can do,” said Elmore County Committeewoman Courtney Ireland. “This is exactly what he wanted to do: get people in an uproar.”
The county GOP did censure him for “behavior unbecoming” of a party member.
Schroeder, a 22-year Idaho Army National Guard soldier who served in Iraq, is satisfied that his protest drew attention to the closed-primary issue.
“It’s made me very passionate about voting,” Schroeder said.