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Eye On Boise

59% of Idaho voters still unaffiliated as primary election approaches

Idaho Secretary of State speaks to an Idaho GOP gathering at the state party headquarters on Friday (Betsy Russell)
Idaho Secretary of State speaks to an Idaho GOP gathering at the state party headquarters on Friday (Betsy Russell)

As Idaho’s May 20 primary election approaches, 59 percent of Idaho’s registered voters remain unaffiliated, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa told a gathering of Idaho Republican Party members this morning at the party’s state headquarters. That means when those voters arrive at the polls, they’ll be free to affiliate with the GOP and vote in the closed Republican primary, or to choose other options, including voting in the Democratic primary or voting the non-partisan ballot only, which includes judicial races. Those who already are affiliated with another party – Democrat, Constitution Party or Libertarian – won’t be able to vote in the GOP primary races.

Anyone who already was registered to vote when Idaho changed its law to allow a closed primary was automatically considered unaffiliated until that voter declares otherwise. Those who didn’t vote in the 2012 primary, which drew only 24 percent turnout of registered voters, remained as unaffiliated. Ysursa said he’d like to see higher turnout. The 2012 primary turnout, he said, was dragged down by Ada County, the state’s most populated county, where only 16 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Currently, in Ada County, 65 percent of voters are unaffiliated. In Kootenai County, it’s 61 percent; Canyon County, 57 percent.

As for turnout this time around, Ysursa said, “We’re thinking it’s going to be in the 27, 28 (percent) range.” He said, “I call it the ‘acid test’ of the closed primary, because we have what I consider some very competitive races going on in the primary.” He said in Idaho, “Getting people registered is not the problem – it’s getting those people who are registered to vote.”

More than a dozen people turned out for Ysursa’s talk, one of a monthly series the party’s been holding, including two of the GOP candidates vying in a four-way primary for Ysursa’s seat – chief deputy Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane, and former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski, R-Boise.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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