How might crossover voting – people switching parties to vote in a different party’s primary election – affect Idaho’s upcoming high-stakes May 15 primary, with positions up for grabs including an open governor’s seat? There are some numbers available, but so far they don’t show a huge shift. The Idaho Republican Party’s primary is closed, meaning only those who affiliate as Republicans can cast ballots; the Democratic primary is open, so anyone can vote. March 9 was the deadline to switch from one party registration to another, but unaffiliated voters can affiliate with a new party at the polls on Election Day.
Gary Moncrief, emeritus political scientist at Boise State University, has been tracking statewide voter registration figures. So far, he said, it appears that about 1,000 voters statewide have switched their registration from Democrat to Republican; that’s an estimate based on total registration figures by party.
The Boise Weekly reported today that Ada County has seen 845 registered Democratic voters officially switch their registration to Republican before the March 9 deadline for such switches. In addition, Chief Deputy Clerk Phil McGrant told the paper’s George Prentice, “Ten Libertarians, six Constitutionalists and 1,100 unaffiliated people also became Republicans. They’ll all be eligible to participate in the Republican primary. Interestingly enough, we had 54 Republicans switch to the Democrat Party and 225 unaffiliated people switch to become Democrats.”
McGrane told the Boise Weekly that the party-swapping doesn’t appear to be as big a trend as some had suggested. “It doesn’t tip the scales too much,” he said.
In the 2014 Idaho primary election, 196,982 Idahoans voted statewide, 44,149 of those in Ada County. In the 2016 primary, the totals were 762,894 statewide and 35,363 in Ada County. If the turnout is in the same range – and with all the big races on the ballot this year, it’s likely to be higher – the figures so far suggest crossover statewide would account for only a fraction of a percent of votes.