Thursday, June 20, 2024

OPINION: Primary solution

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| June 9, 2023 1:00 AM

Earlier this year the legislature, with the approval of the governor, disenfranchised all Idaho voters from the 2024 presidential primary. The plan was to move the presidential primary from March to May to “save money” but by May most of the delegates are already allotted and Idaho would be ignored by the campaigns. No rallies, no advertising, no enthusiasm. We would join only five other states with presidential primaries so late in the year.

What started out as a bad plan got even worse. Because the bill to move the primary was badly drafted, what it really did was to delete the presidential primary entirely. As of today, Idaho has no presidential primary for any party and all Idaho voters have been disenfranchised from participating in a primary to help select their party’s nominee for president in 2024.

Understand that the political parties are private organizations. The Constitution, Democrat, Libertarian and Republican parties are not part of the government. They have no executive, legislative or taxing authority. The parties exist so that likeminded people can organize to present their candidates for office. Primary elections are not like general elections in that primary elections only select who will compete in the general election.

In the presidential primary you aren’t actually voting directly for your preferred nominee. For Republicans, we are voting to determine which candidates’ pledged delegates will go to the Republican National Convention. It is at the RNC that the delegates will vote and determine who will be the party’s nominee. This is similar to the Electoral College where the only people in Idaho who actually vote for the next president are the four electors as determined by the General Election.

Idaho’s Republican Party leadership, under Madam Chairman Dorothy Moon, is committed to mitigating the negative impact of deleting the presidential primary and has been diligently working to restore Idaho’s national status in the presidential selection process. The Republican Party is not willing to let Idaho’s Republican voters be a footnote in 2024.

What are the possible solutions? Doing nothing is not an option as that would disenfranchise all the Republicans in Idaho. The best solution would be for the legislature to call a special session to repeal HB138, which would set things back as there were. A special session is needed because the deadline for Idaho to submit our presidential primary plan to the national Republican Party is Oct. 1, before the next regular legislative session.

One option could be to have a “party” primary election. This would require the political parties to hire the state to conduct the election. Only the state has the equipment, facilities, personnel, training and voter data needed to conduct a statewide election. The state would need to be paid for their costs, about $2 million, and the Democrat, Libertarian and Constitution parties would have to pay their fair share and agree on the date and time for the election. It would be an understatement to say that coming to an agreement and raising the funds in a few weeks would be a difficult and risky proposition. What if either or both don’t happen? We are back to disenfranchised Idaho.

The easiest solution would be to have Idaho’s 44 county central committees simultaneously meet and vote for their choice for the Republican nomination. While this is a simple solution it does not provide for affiliated Republican voters who are not elected precinct committeemen to vote.

The next option would be to have a Presidential Preference Convention. Republican voters from each county would be nominated and voted on by the county’s central committee to be delegates to the convention. The approximately 700 delegates would be apportioned according to the number of affiliated Republicans in each county. The convention would likely be held in Boise at an appropriate facility.

Another option would be to hold a Presidential Nominating Caucus. Back in 2012 Idaho held a “winner take all” caucus that met at multiple locations in each county. The major objection to that caucus was the multiple rounds of voting, which took well past midnight to complete. The proposed caucus would have a single vote. If any candidate received more than 50% of the votes statewide then they would get all the delegates. If no candidate received a majority, but more than 15%, then the delegates would be apportioned.

Either the convention or the caucus would be held on Saturday March 2, three days before “Super Tuesday.” This would ensure that the candidates pay attention to Idaho issues in their desire to score a win before Super Tuesday.

The Idaho GOP Summer Meeting is later this month. At that meeting the 218 members of the State Central Committee will consider, debate and decide between the Convention option and the Caucus option. Whichever option is selected, it will only be implemented if the legislature fails to restore the presidential primary by repealing HB138 before Oct. 1.

Contact your legislators and ask them to call for a special session to restore Idaho’s presidential primary by repealing HB138.

It’s just common sense.

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Brent Regan is chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.