Thursday, June 08, 2023

EDITORIAL: Fed up with extremism? Join the club

| May 10, 2023 1:00 AM

Getting more citizens involved in the political process is a common goal.

But there’s a caveat, isn’t there? When you hear political officials advocating greater participation, what they really mean is: We want more voters, but only if they’re on our side.

Intended or not, that’s precisely what the Idaho Republican Party accomplished when it closed its primary elections more than a decade ago. As a consequence, the second largest voting bloc in the state had that primary door slammed in its face.

Unaffiliated, independent voters — whose ranks are more than double those of the state Democratic Party — can’t cast ballots in Idaho Republican primaries. It’s a huge slice of the voter pie, yet it has no say in who the Republican Party forwards to — or, maybe more importantly, cuts out from — the general election field.

A broad coalition of Idahoans is working to change that.

Recognizing that unaffiliated voters tend to represent the broad center of the spectrum — a political middle class, if you will — this coalition wants to force open the Republican primary door again.

They understand that the best way to return Idaho to its live-and-let-live roots, rather than the cutthroat my-way-or-the-highway reality today, is to make it possible for more moderate Republicans to win seats in partisan elections. And that can’t happen with closed primaries, as our state has seen increasingly since 2012.

The coalition, Idahoans for Open Primaries, has launched a statewide ballot initiative for the November 2024 election. If enough signatures are gathered for the initiative to make the ballot, it will then be up to voters in next year’s general election to decide if they want primaries to be open or closed.

The initiative would also significantly change the primary voting structure so candidates receiving the most votes, regardless of the party they belong to, advance to the general election. And that’s a terrifying prospect to the people fighting not just to keep primaries closed, but to essentially kill the only tool we have to overturn bad laws — the ballot initiative process itself.

The Idaho Capital Sun recently published an excellent article that will help you understand the issue:

Closed primaries have led to the toxic levels of extremism that now plague Kootenai County. They've tilted the Idaho Legislature further and further to the right. Extremist fervor has gone so far as to politicize every nonpartisan race, imploring voters to select candidates whose allegiance is to the party rather than the people.

When a petition for the 2024 ballot initiative comes your way, please consider signing it. Your signature doesn’t mean you necessarily support open primaries or the new structure for advancing candidates to general elections. It simply means you want all Idahoans, not just the handful who have a stranglehold on power, to decide the issue.

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This is the second of a two-part editorial. Here's Part 1:

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