Thursday, February 22, 2024

Open primaries initiative reaches 50,000 signatures

Hagadone News Network | December 21, 2023 1:00 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — Idahoans for Open Primaries has secured 50,000 signatures for its petition to end closed primaries, according to a press release.

The group seeks to place the Open Primaries Initiative on the November 2024 ballot. If successful, the ballot measure would create a nonpartisan primary system that is open to all voters, a press release said.

The current closed primary system, which began in 2011, prevents 270,000 independent voters in the state from voting in Idaho’s primary elections unless they join a political party.

“Our coalition has set a goal of collecting 100,000 signatures before submitting to the Secretary of State’s office to be certified,” said Margaret Kinzel, co-leader of the Idaho chapter of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, one of the organizations supporting the initiative, in the release. “The fact that volunteers have already reached 50,000 signatures in just four months is a testament to how passionate Idahoans are about the prospect of an open primary.”

Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chair Brent Regan opposes the initiative.

"Many who have signed the so called 'Open Primary' initiative are shocked when they learn what the initiative actually does," he wrote in an email to The Press in response to a request for comment. "If you read the ballot language you would find that the initiative does three things."

Regan said it eliminates party primaries, making all elections uni-party elections; it implements Ranked Choice Voting, a confusing and complex system that relies on computer tabulation of ballots; and it legalizes lying about party affiliation.

The initiative states: "Candidates could list any affiliation on the ballot, but would not represent political parties, and need not be associated with the party they name."

Proponents of the initiative claim that allowing only Republicans to vote for who will represent the Republican Party in the general election is unfair to members of the Democrat, Libertarian, and Constitution parties as well as unaffiliated voters, Regan wrote. 

"Unfair? People have the free choice to affiliate with a party or not. This initiative would eliminate your right to associate with the party of your choice to support your candidate," he wrote.

To qualify for the ballot, the campaign must collect valid signatures from 6% of Idaho voters who were registered at the last general election, which is 62,895 signatures.

The campaign must also collect signatures from 6% of registered voters in each of 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. All of this must be complete by May 1.

“We are confident that these reforms will not only give Idaho voters more quality candidates and choices, but it will also ensure all voters have their voices heard,” said Kinzel. “In a taxpayer-funded election, no voter should be forced to pick a party to participate. All voters should be able to cast their vote for any candidate they believe in.”

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