Let Idaho voters rank the candidates 

Idaho’s primary elections are 11 months away. We won’t know who all will be on our ballots until the early March filing deadline, eight months away. 

Yet, we know of 10 Republicans who will be running for state office: three for governor–Brad Little, Janice McGeachen, and Ammon Bundy; two for lieutenant governor–Luke Malek and Priscella Giddings; three for secretary of state–Chad Houck, Phil Crane, and Mary Souza; and two for superintendent of public instruction–Sherri Ybarra and Debbie Critchfield. And it’s likely that the incumbents will file for another six state and national positions.     

Candidates have good reasons to declare early. One, it means they have more months to campaign and raise funds. And, two, it may discourage less resolved candidates from running. Luke Malek not only declared six months ago, he now lists 59 endorsements on his website. 

No wonder some Democrats are worrying about who their candidates will be. Melissa Sue Robinson has declared as a gubernatorial candidate, but she is not a team builder. Many want and expect Paulette Jordan to run again, but few can fathom why she chooses to announce late–Dec. 7, 2017, (her birthday), for the 2018 governor’s race and even later,  Feb. 7, 2020, for the 2020 U.S. senatorial race.

When it comes to campaigns, however, the candidates call the shots.  Parties are on the sidelines–encouraging and cajoling perhaps, but not on the field.

 For the Republicans, that can mean too many primary candidates.    

 In 2018 Republicans had seven primary candidates for U.S. representative in District 1, seven for governor, and five for lieutenant governor.  Rep. Russ Fulcher won with 43.1% of the vote, Gov. Brad Little with 37.3%, and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachen with 28.9%. If they’d been running for mayor of Boise–or even Caldwell–there would have been runoff elections. 

Think about it. McGeachin won the primary with over 70% of the Republican voters supporting someone else.  Support from only 6% of Idaho voters gave her the “R” after her name in the general election. 

It’s time Idaho considered ranked-choice voting where voters mark their first choice, second choice, etc. After round one, the ballots of the person getting the least votes are counted for their second choice. That continues until one candidate gets over 50% of the vote. 

Sixteen states now have ranked-voting as an option. Most limit it to non-partisan elections like city council and mayor, but Maine and Alaska are extending ranked-voting to state and Federal elections.  

Ranked-voting is quicker and cheaper than a run-off. Some argue that run-offs heighten voter awareness and participation, but the numbers don’t seem to bear that out. About 350,000 more voters voted in the general election for Georgia’s U.S. senate seats than in the runoffs. For the Boise mayoral election, about 7,000 more voted in the general election. (Caldwell, however, did have 128 more voters turn out for a 2019 run-off for city council than for general election.) 

Greg Orman--a Kansas independent, businessman, and former U.S. Senate candidate–sees ranked-voting as allowing people in general elections to vote for who they want rather than against the one they don’t want. 

“ If you’re a Libertarian who votes Republican because you dislike the Democrats, you can list the Libertarian as your first choice and the Republican as your second.  If you’re a Green who votes Democratic because you dislike the Republicans, you can list the Green as your first choice and the Democrat as your second.”

I’m sure changing the machinery would be a nightmare, but Idaho shouldn’t have candidates winning nominations with 30% of the vote.   

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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