Idaho election rules in flux

The moment political junkies around the country have been waiting for is less than a week away: Iowa voters will caucus on Monday, Feb. 3. New Hampshire,  Nevada, and South Carolina primaries will follow soon.    

Admittedly, this year Republicans won’t have a lot at stake in these contests.  Yet, there will be clues to how voters may think in November. Did suburban housewives select Democratic ballots? Was turnout among young voters as high or higher than in 2018?  Does it look like voters are ready for a woman president?   

.The deluge comes on Super Tuesday, March 3, when 14 states, including California,hold primaries.   

On Tuesday, March 10, six states–including Idaho–will cast ballots. Seven more states will vote before the end of the month. 

By March 31, we will know how nearly two-thirds of the Democratic convention delegates will vote on the first ballot. 

That hasn’t been true before because California–with its 415 regular delegates–has traditionally voted in June. (Idaho is allotted 20 delegates.)  

I’ve heard a lot of questions about the changes in Idaho’s election process this year–and it is complicated.  Here’s my best shot at the answers.

Are Idaho Democrats having a presidential primary or caucuses this year?  

Both–though the caucuses will not resemble the huge ones of 2008 and 2016.

The March 10 primary will determine how many supporters each candidate will get at the state convention.  In theory, up to six candidates may poll over the 15% required to earn delegates to the state convention. Barely a dozen Idaho counties, however, are allotted six or more delegates.  

Attendees at the county caucuses on Saturday, April 4, will divide according to the candidate they support and select delegate(s) to fill the slots at the state convention in June. The number of allotted delegates and the location of each county caucus are listed under 2020 primary elections at www.idahodems.org. (Note: Arrive early; traditionally, doors close when caucussing begins.) 

Those at the state convention will elect Idaho’s 20 committed delegates to the National Democratic Convention.  

 What’s this about party affiliation?  Registration forms in Idaho now require voters to state their party preference–unaffiliated is an option. Parties may select which affiliations qualify voters to receive their ballots at the presidential primary in March and the general in May.

Republicans are very consistent; primary voters must be registered Republicans.

Democrats are all over the place. Democrats and unaffiliated voters may vote the Democratic ballot on March 10; only Democrats may participate in the caucuses; and any voter may select a Democratic ballot in the general primary. 

Current rules allow persons to change their party affiliation at the polls for the March 10 primary and at the Democratic delegate selection caucuses. Only those who affiliate with the Republican party on or before March 13 may vote in the Republican general primary. 

Any chance these rules will change soon?  

Definitely. A bill already in its third reading in the Idaho House  (HO 322) would require voters to change their party affiliation on or before the final day of candidate filing for an election.  For future presidential primaries that day would be mid-December. 

Unaffiliated voters could still select a party ballot when voting, but they would no longer be unaffiliated. Their ballot choice would become a matter of public record.         

The bill’s emergency clause would make the day the bill was signed the final day for changing affiliation prior to the March 10 primary.  

The form for changing party affiliation is available at https://idahovotes.gov/voting/.  It can be mailed or emailed to your county clerk.