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Boundary County presidential caucus March 2

by EMILY BONSANT
Staff Writer | February 1, 2024 1:00 AM

BONNERS FERRY — Idaho Republicans will hold a presidential caucus on March 2, rather than a regular presidential primary due to a faux pas during the 2023 legislative session.

Last year, legislation was passed that removed the May primary election with the intent of having it moved to March. However, the language to move the primary was not added to the bill, removing the presidential primary election. 

The Legislature had the opportunity to reinstate the presidential primary through HB 1186; however, the bill died in committee due to a lack of motion. 

However, Idaho still needed to find a way to send elect delegates for the presidential primary, and so political parties will be holding caucuses. The Idaho Republican Presidential Primary Caucus is set for Saturday, March 2. This is the only way to vote for the Republican candidate for the presidential race. 

Dorothy Moon, chair of the Idaho Republican Party, said in a video announcing the caucus that March is a better time for a primary than May, as it incentivizes presidential candidates to campaign in the state. By having an earlier primary, she said Idaho’s social and economic interests receive more national focus. 

Only the presidential primary has been removed, officials said. The state and county race primary election is still set for May 21. 

In Boundary County, the Republican Presidential Caucus will take place at Boundary County Middle School, 6577 Main St., Bonners Ferry. The doors open at 11 a.m.  BCMS will serve all voting districts within the county. As a requirement from the Idaho GOP, the caucus location must be able to hold at least 10% of the registered Republicans.

“Boundary County, I believe, is around 5,600 [registered Republicans]. So we need a place that could poll 560 people,” said Dave Wenk, Boundary County GOP Naples Precinct Committeeman. “So we contacted the middle school right away.”

Wenk was named caucus coordinator. He is tasked with overseeing the caucus and is the sole judge on voter registration. 

Wenk said he and other volunteers have gone through several training sessions with the state party to prepare for the caucus. 

Voters will be allowed into the building at 11 a.m. and must be in line by 12:30 p.m. to participate. Additionally, voters must be registered Republicans as of Dec. 31, 2023. 

Wenk said that deadline means that if a voter has moved between Jan. 1 and March 2, they must cast their vote at the county and precinct they were registered at on Dec. 31, 2023. 

Those who turn 18 between Dec. 31 and March 2, must sign an affidavit that they are registered to vote and will be eligible to vote if additionally provide identification. 

ID must be provided by all voters, this includes either a driver's license, Idaho ID, passport, concealed carry permit or federal ID. College IDs are no longer valid forms of identification for voting in Idaho. 

“[When voting] the first thing you’re going to do is meet a greeter who will ask which precinct you are from and do you have ID,” Wenk said. 

Greeters will direct voters to their precinct within the building. From there voters will be checked in the polling book, asked to provide identification, and to sign the poll book. They then will receive a red hand stamp to show they are a registered Republican voter. 

After a voter receives a red hand stamp, then they may proceed to the gymnasium for the caucus, Wenk said. Only those who are registered Republicans may enter the caucus and vote. 

“We are going to tell people that if you go to the bathroom, do not wash that red hand stamp off, because if you do you are void,” Wenk said. “That is a party rule. It’s one time, one stamp.”

The caucus will be called to order and caucus rules explained before the one-time vote is taken. If a candidate receives 50% of the vote, then that candidate is awarded all of the delegates and alternates for the state, who will then go to the Republican National Convention. 

“If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, then a delegate will be split into portions for the candidates that receive 15% or more of the vote,” he said. 

Three people will then be nominated to the tabulation committee. Wenk said the people have already been appointed, but that caucus goers must approve the members of the committee. 

Each candidate on the ballot or their campaign-specified designee will be allowed five minutes to offer remarks or play a video to the assembly. 

Before voting, the ballot box will be opened to show it is empty, then closed and sealed. People will line up, receive a ballot and a black hand stamp over their red stamp, then proceed to a voting booth and deposit their ballot. 

If someone makes a mistake on their ballot, they can receive another one, but the first ballot will be collected and spoiled. 

After all ballots are cast, the tabulation committee will begin counting all the ballots in front of the caucus members. Ballots will be separated in stacks for each candidate. 

The two counters have to reach the same number twice. The ballots have to match the number of people that signed in on the poll book, then the winner is announced. 

Voters can go home after voting or stay to hear the results for Boundary County. The results are then reported to the Idaho GOP, then shipped to the state party along with the poll books. 

Wenk is optimistic that the caucus will go quickly, and run smoothly.

Unlike a typical presidential primary, a caucus is run by a political party with its own rules, Wenk said. At the Boundary County Republican presidential caucus, candidates for GOP precincts, and county and state offices will have booths within the caucus. 

“We don’t have the election laws in a caucus as we do in a presidential primary election,” Wenk said. 

Since the caucus is hosted by a political party, county governments will not participate in the counting, nor will tax dollars pay for the caucus.  

However, no media or recordings are allowed during the caucus. Media members may vote if they are registered republicans and provide proper identification. 

“We’re not allowing any cameras to be set up,” he said. “There will be no media allowed in the room, per the state party.”

In addition, no one is to bring poster boards or anything that can obstruct the view of others. 

Candidates who have filed in the Republican presidential race in Idaho will appear on the ballot. 

Candidates still running for the Republican nomination include former President Donald J. Trump and Nikki Haley, former U.S. Ambassador and prior governor of South Carolina.

Two weeks before the caucus, all registered Republican voters will receive a postcard from the Idaho GOP with their polling place listed.

Parking at BCMS is available on the south and north side. Handicap parking is available in the front of the school. 

To find your polling location, also known as a voting precinct, visit voteidaho.gov.

The Idaho Democrat Presidential Caucus is May 23.