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Eye On Boise

Of parties, delegate selection, and the March 8 primary…

When the Idaho Republican Party holds its presidential primary election on March 8, it’ll determine how the state’s 32 delegates to the Republican National Convention are apportioned, and it’s not as simple as just proportional or winner-take-all. That’s because national GOP rules require that if a state party does its selection process – whether by primary election, caucus or convention – between March 1 and March 15, its delegates must be apportioned proportionally based on the results, but with two optional exceptions, a “floor” and a “ceiling.”

The Idaho Republican Party has opted for both, and chosen a 20 percent floor and 50 percent-plus-one ceiling. That means any GOP presidential candidate who gets less than 20 percent of the vote in the primary won’t get any of Idaho’s delegates. And if one candidate gets 50 percent plus one or more – a majority – that candidate will get all of the state’s 32 delegates. If no candidate gets a majority, the delegates will be divided proportionally, based on the votes for all candidates who get 20 percent or more.

Dave Johnston, Idaho GOP executive director, said the party first went to a caucus selection system in order to move up the timing in the spring, so the outcome wouldn’t already be determined based on other states. Then, it became concerned that caucuses limited participation, so it pushed for the new March 8 primary. “I think this move to a presidential primary is a win-win-win,” Johnston said. “We’re being an active player in the presidential nomination process. … We’ve already had two candidates visit Idaho, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more.”

The March 8 primary is solely for presidential selection. At this point, two parties have notified the Idaho Secretary of State’s office that they plan to participate: The Idaho Republican Party, and the Constitution Party. Parties have until November to give that notification. Tim Hurst, chief deputy Secretary of State, noted that to appear on the presidential primary ballot, a party must have more than one candidate file; candidates have until Dec. 9 to file, and there’s a $1,000 filing fee. If just one Constitution Party candidate files, that party won’t be on the primary ballot and the candidate will be declared its nominee.

The Idaho Democratic Party will hold caucuses for its presidential selection. All other federal, state, and local primary election races will be part of Idaho’s regular primary election, which is scheduled for May 17, 2016.

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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