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OPINION: Caucus confusion

| November 24, 2023 1:00 AM

What is up with Idaho’s Presidential Primary or Caucus? Are we having one or not? When is it? Where do I go? When is the deadline to affiliate with the Republican Party?

All good questions. 

The short answers are: Yes, there will be an Idaho Presidential Caucus that will be held on Saturday, March 2 starting at 11 a.m. Pacific, noon Mountain Time. It will be a “Firehouse Caucus” which is basically a primary election with extras that is run and paid for by the Republican Party instead of the state. To participate, you must be affiliated with the Republican Party by the end of this year. 

Earlier this year, the legislature with the approval of the governor, disenfranchised all Idaho voters by deleting the March 2024 Presidential Primary. House Bill 138 was supposed to move the Presidential  Primary to May so it would be held the same time as the May Idaho Legislative Primary, but the bill was badly drafted so it eliminated the Presidential Primary altogether, and they passed it anyway. 

There are two very good reasons why a May Presidential Primary is bad. One is because the Republican National Convention was moved up from September to July 15 causing the deadline to submit the delegate list to the RNC to move to May 31, the same day the May primary results would be officially announced. This leaves zero days to hold a convention and certify the Idaho delegates.

The second reason is that by May all but five states have chosen their delegates for the Republican National Convention and so the race for the nomination would already be decided and nobody would care what Idaho does. We would get zero candidate attention for Idaho issues and concerns. 

For these reasons the Idaho Republican Party opposed moving the primary to May but the leadership in the legislature pushed the flawed HB 138 forward and onto the governor’s desk where it was signed into law. No more Presidential Primary for Idaho. 

The IDGOP lobbied to repeal HB 138 to restore the March Presidential Primary and even called for a Special Session of the legislature to re-enfranchise Idaho voters but the establishment leadership would not budge. 

At our Summer Meeting, the IDGOP voted that if the March Presidential Primary was not restored then the IDGOP would conduct a statewide Firehouse Caucus to re-enfranchise Idaho Republican voters. The party was not willing to allow Republican voters' voices to be silenced. 

Some of you may remember that in 2012 the IDGOP held a Presidential Caucus. This was a classic style caucus where there were multiple rounds of voting until a single winner emerged. Multiple rounds meant that it took forever and those that stuck around till the end were exhausted. 

This time we will have a Firehouse Caucus which is a lot more like a primary but is held by the IDGOP instead of the state. There will be a single round of voting so it will go a lot faster. If you have affiliated with the Republican Party before the end of this year then here is what you should expect.

In mid-February you will receive a post card from the IDGOP that will list the time and location of the caucus for your precinct. Save this card and take it with you because you will need to know your precinct when you check in. 

On Saturday, March 2 at each caucus location the doors will open at 11 a.m. Pacific time, noon Mountain time. When you arrive a greeter will help you find the correct line for your precinct. You will show your photo ID, sign a poll book next to your name and receive a stamp on the back of your hand. 

At noon (1 p.m. Mountain time) the Caucus Captain will begin the program. The empty ballot box will be displayed, the tabulators will be selected and presentations from the candidates will be given. After the presentations, about five minutes each, the balloting will begin. 

To vote you will show your hand stamp, receive a second stamp to cancel the first, and then be given a ballot. There will be a privacy area where you can go to mark your ballot and then deposit it in the ballot box. You can stay to watch the tabulation or leave at your option. 

If you arrive late, check-in will close at 12:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. Mountain Time) but as long as you are in line you will be able to vote. Caucus locations will have provisions to accommodate handicapped voters. There will be no mail-in voting.

Once everyone has voted, the tabulation will begin. The Caucus Captain and Tabulators will open the ballot box in front of witnesses. The ballots will be sorted into piles by vote and then each pile will be counted at least twice until the count is the same twice in a row. The tabulation results will be entered onto a tabulation sheet which will be signed by the Caucus Captain and Tabulators. The Caucus Captain will also report the results to state party headquarters. 

The Ballots, tabulation sheet and poll books will be sealed in a box and returned to state party headquarters so the results can be canvased. Unofficial results should be reported Saturday night with official results being issued within 10 days. 

More information is available at https://www.idahorepublicancaucus.com.

There are 976 precincts in Idaho serving nearly 600,000 Republican voters. Organizing a statewide effort is a huge undertaking by thousands of volunteers at no cost to the taxpayer. All the costs are being paid for by the state Republican Party and your own County Republican Central Committee. Please consider helping out by donating some time or money.

It’s just common sense.

• • •

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