It turns out that voters who want to change their party affiliation at the polls for Idaho’s March 8 presidential primary will be able to do so after all. Legislation proposed by Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney to move up the affiliation deadline to Feb. 12 – a week from Friday – instead of the current March 12, has died without a hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee.
“People thought it was too close to the deadline, by the time it could get passed and through both houses and signed by the governor,” said Tim Hurst, chief deputy secretary of state.
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, the Senate sponsor of SB 1195, said, “It probably didn’t fit this election cycle, and it wasn’t worth the hassle of getting it done as quickly as they originally proposed.” So for the March 8 presidential-only primary, he said, “The current law is the current law.”
Senate Democrats had proposed a competing bill, introduced as a personal bill, to let any voter change affiliation any time for a primary election. That bill, SB 1203, also isn’t expected to advance this year; the State Affairs Committee hasn’t scheduled hearings on either measure.
SB 1195 also would have made one other change to Idaho’s election laws: It would have banned write-in candidates in the presidential primary election. Idaho allows write-in candidates for the fall general election for president. Hurst said that’s what write-in candidates who’ve contacted him have been interested in. “We haven’t had any requests to be in the presidential primaries as a write-in,” he said.
Hurst said Idaho’s election laws will stay as-is for the upcoming March 8 presidential primary, which will be just for the Republican Party and the Constitution Party; the Idaho Democratic Party will make its presidential selections in March 22 county caucuses. Both the GOP and the Constitution Party have opted for closed primaries, meaning only registered party members can participate, but people can affiliate at the polls on election day. Once they do so, they’ll be considered registered members of that party and allowed to vote.
“And then we’ll know after this election if it really is a problem or not – we’ve got four years to fix it,” Hurst said.
Idaho’s regular primary election – for every office on the ballot except president – is May 17.