Wednesday, June 12, 2024

OPINION: Independents drive political change

by BARRY JOHNSON/Guest Opinion
| November 17, 2023 1:00 AM

Independents get short shrift in Idaho. And that’s irksome, to say the least.

As a lifelong Idahoan, proud military Veteran, and independent voter, I know we can do better. Which is why I helped co-found Veterans for Idaho Voters.

Like nearly a third of Idaho voters, I don’t want to affiliate as an R or a D. I’m frustrated that the only way I get a real voice in our primaries is to register Republican, where most of our races are decided. Or be left to take a Democratic ticket. But at no time can I simply be an independent and vote for the person I want.

The Open Primaries Initiative, now gathering signatures statewide, will change that. It gives Idaho voters a real voice to choose candidates who matter to them most, regardless of party. 

Idaho has over 270,000 unaffiliated voters like me and another 15,000 registered to third parties. The true number is undoubtedly much higher, with many thousands who would remain independent if not forced to register Republican in order to vote in primary races they care most about. 

Closed primaries, mandated by Republicans in 2011, have one intended purpose only: Give the party more control over candidates they want to win in primary elections. 

Truly open primaries, that allow every voter to choose a candidate regardless of party, also have one intended purpose only: Give that control back to voters where it belongs. 

And that means independent-minded Idahoans get their voice back.

To make open primaries effective, the top four vote getters move on to the general election. Then voters not only select their top choice in the general election, but can rank order other candidates in order of preference so that the ultimate winner receives a majority vote of over 50 percent in an instant runoff. 

The Idaho initiative is based on Alaska and Maine where this system has been used with over 80% voter satisfaction.

Taken together, this system goes a long way to putting elections back where they belong, into the hands of voters. It’s time for party politics and special interests to take a back seat, along with their tiresome rancor and petty one-upmanship.  

Join me, and my brothers and sisters in Veterans for Idaho Voters, in signing the Open Primaries Initiative petition. The first step in giving Idaho voters their voice back is to get this on the ballot in 2024. 

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Barry Johnson is a retired U.S. Army colonel who was raised in the Lewiston area and received his Army commission from the University of Idaho in 1984. He retired to the Moscow area in 2013. This past summer, he joined other veterans across the state to form Veterans for Idaho Voters (V4IV), a cross-partisan and independent group of Idaho military veterans advocating for fair elections, citizen initiatives, civil politics and sensible policies. Veterans for Idaho Voters is one of the coalition partners behind the Open Primaries Initiative and is committed to its passage. You can find more at the V4IV website