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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Republican Idaho legislator proposes constitutional amendment to block ranked choice voting

By Clark Corbin Idaho Capital Sun

In an effort to block a proposed open primary ballot initiative, a Republican Idaho legislator is proposing an amendment to the Idaho Constitution that would limit elections to one round of voting.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, is sponsoring the proposed amendment, House Joint Resolution 3. If ratified, Barbieri’s amendment is designed to prohibit ranked choice voting, which is one of the components of the open primary ballot initiative that supporters hope to qualify for the November election.

Barbieri also hopes to qualify his proposed amendment for the November election, setting up a potential showdown over election policies and procedures at the ballot box.

“The purpose is to head off this ranked choice voting perspective that has been kind of permeating, bubbling up, in some of the states,” Barbieri told the House State Affairs Committee on Friday.

“On the one hand, the Legislature is trying to stop things that aren’t here yet,” Barbieri said. “And on the other hand, we need to be more proactive overall and trying to recognize that things that are happening in other states we need to try and address now to try and head those things off. This proposed constitutional amendment is exactly that.”

The proposed amendment states, “ONE ROUND OF VOTING – PERSON WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF VOTES ELECTED. In any election, there shall be one round of voting, and the person having the highest number of votes for an office shall be deemed to have won such election.”

Newly appointed Rep. Todd Achilles, D-Boise, asked Barbieri whether passing the proposed constitutional amendment would create problems for nine Idaho cities that use runoff elections.

“Wouldn’t that block these elections?” Achilles asked Barbieri.

Barbieri said he wasn’t sure.

“Let me do a little research on that, Rep. Achilles, and I will try to get an answer for that if we can get this introduced and make sure that we answer that properly for you,” Barbieri told him.

In order for Barbieri’s proposed amendment to qualify for the election, two-thirds of the members of the Idaho House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Idaho Senate must vote for House Joint Resolution 3.

If it makes the ballot, it would take a simple majority of voters to approve it.

On Friday, the House State Affairs Committee voted to introduce House Joint Resolution 3, clearing that way for it to return to the committee for a full public hearing.

Idahoans for Open Primaries opposes move

Shortly after the House State Affairs Committee introduced the proposed amendment Friday, Idahoans for Open Primaries spokesman Jim Jones issued a statement in opposition to the amendment. Jones is a former chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court who is backing the open primary initiative.

“The proposal would protect the power of party bosses and special interests to select candidates in closed primaries,” Jones said in a written statement. “It’s an underhanded attempt to stop the people of Idaho from passing the Open Primaries Initiative and taking back their power.”

Like Achilles, Jones also raised concerns about the impact on city elections that feature a runoff.

“The proposal is also poorly written,” Jones added. “It would mangle local elections by eliminating runoffs for mayoral races and allowing a mayor to win without support from the majority of voters.”

Supporters of the open primary ballot initiative have until May 1 to collect enough signatures to qualify their ballot initiative for November’s election. Supporters must gather signatures from 6% of voters statewide and 6% of voters in 18 different legislative districts. It will take about 63,000 signatures to meet the statewide threshold. In December, the group Idahoans for Open Primaries announced they had surpassed 50,000 signatures statewide.

If it is adopted, the open primary initiative would end the closed primary elections in Idaho and replace them with a single open primary election that all candidates and all voters would be able to participate in. The open primary initiative would also change the general election by creating a ranked choice system of voting. Under that system, voters would be able to rank each of the candidates on their ballot in order of preference. The candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated, and their first place votes would instead go to those voters’ second choice of candidate on those same ballots. That process would continue until there were only two candidates remaining and the candidate with the most votes would be elected the winner.