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OPINION: Idaho GOP's Presidential Caucus confusion

by SANDY PATANO/Guest Opinion
| December 15, 2023 1:00 AM

As a lifelong active Republican voter, I have very serious concerns over the proposed Presidential Party Caucus in Idaho.

Republicans in Idaho won't be able to cast votes for presidential candidates in next year’s presidential primary as we have in the past. Rather than the traditional means where people go to the polls on election day or cast their votes by early or absentee voting, this caucus-style election will be run by state party leaders on Saturday, March 2, meaning voters must show up in a specific location at a specific time, with specific instructions on how to vote. 

State Party Republican leadership broadly blames the legislature, conveniently suggesting the loss of our direct primary was the result of an “oversight.” But we shouldn’t overlook Idaho GOP Chair Dorothy Moon or those who helped create this fiasco in our state. Area legislators who removed the presidential primary include Vito Barbieri, Ron Mendive, Jordan Redman, Heather Scott and Phil Hart. Unintentional or not, it happened, and they refused to correct the ‘error’ while they still had the chance.

The Idaho GOP is now attempting to fix the mess they helped create by promoting a confusing “Firehouse Style” presidential caucus in March, spearheaded and controlled locally by KCRCC volunteers, not the impartial elected Secretary of State and County Clerk. Many of these same political leaders have been loud supporters of a caucus in order to cut the average voter out of the primary election process so they can hand-pick candidates.  

If you have never been to a caucus before, it is not the same as simply and easily voting in a primary. Those participating in the Idaho Republican Presidential Caucus in 2012 remember that disaster, and why that approach was abandoned. The March presidential caucus will be in addition to the regular May primary election for state legislative and local offices. To date, Idaho’s proposed caucus format looks more like a dumpster fire than an organized firehouse.  

When Party Chair Dorothy Moon’s Idaho GOP claims they are “here to help,” skepticism is crucial. The unfortunate truth is that Idaho’s Presidential Caucus will shut out tens of thousands of Idaho Republican voters from participating. 

A nurse, fireman and countless other professions, constrained by work commitments may find it impossible to participate in person. An elderly neighbor without transportation, or unconnected to social media and without access to newspapers, could become easily confused by the specified requirements. Only eligible voters with a postcard ticket and their minor children shall be admitted to the caucus. No other guests will be allowed. 

Ronald Reagan’s wisdom, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives,” feels pertinent. The ‘Firehouse’ fix feels overly controlling and less secure. True Republicans should question why political party bureaucracy seems to impede the democratic process. On top of all of this, Republican presidential candidates will have to pay the State Party to even be included in the caucus. 

If you are a registered Republican, here's what you need to know about the Idaho Presidential Caucus: 

Anticipate receiving a postcard in mid-February for the March caucus. Yes, what’s been described as a ‘mundane postcard’ will be sent through the USPS snail mail, which some argue isn't secure during election time. Once received, you must retain the postcard as your admission ticket to one of the caucus sites in March. 

When Caucus Day arrives in March, Republicans must go to a specific pre-designated caucus spot, with their golden ticket postcard and identification in hand, to sign in and wait before casting a vote for Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy or Chris Christie.

Although Idaho GOP leaders promise “a single round of voting,” it sounds more like a prolonged multi-hour event. Party leaders struggle to explain the exercise simply, which creates even more confusion. And who is counting the votes? KCRCC and Party leaders.

As this absurdity unfolds, the Idaho State GOP, under Dorothy Moon and Brent Regan’s leadership, should reflect on democracy’s essence and the Republican National Platform. They should work to simplify the process, ensuring every Republican voice is heard, except they don’t want every Idaho Republican voice to be heard. 

Instead, Idaho Republicans will face a chaotic circus, shutting the door on those eager to exercise their right and responsibility as Idahoans. To those trying to navigate this unnecessary Idaho State GOP-designed political maze, good luck.

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Sandy Patano is a former Idaho Republican Party vice-chair and founding member of the North Idaho Republicans.