The House State Affairs Committee has approved SB 1066 to establish a new, earlier presidential primary election on the second Tuesday of March, ahead of Idaho's May primary election, at a cost to taxpayers of $2 million. Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, joined the committee’s four Democrats in voting against the bill, which already has passed the Senate. “I am torn on this bill for a couple of reasons,” Luker said, after several people testified that they felt excluded from the presidential primary election process because they weren’t able to attend GOP caucuses in the last election. “I understand the need to be inclusive in terms of having everyone have an opportunity to vote.” But, he said, “It’s public funds. … I just can’t support the public expenditure part of this.”
Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said, “I don’t feel like I can support this because it’s a closed primary for some of us and an open primary for others, and if we were paying taxpayers money, I think it should be open.”
GOP activist and former state Sen. Rod Beck told the committee, “I don’t think this is a contentious issue at all. … We were tired of having zero impact on the presidential nomination process. ... Idaho was left completely out of the process.” So the Idaho GOP went to an earlier caucus, ahead of Idaho’s May primary election, he said. But with a primary election, he said, “There are significant positives – absentee voting is a positive.”
House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, who presented the bill along with Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said, “We get a little tired sometimes of Iowa and New Hampshire picking our presidential candidates before we have a chance to weigh in.” The bill now moves to the full House for a final vote.