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EDITORIAL: Sign the petition and watch extremists quake

| September 17, 2023 1:00 AM

The prospect of ranked-choice voting makes those in power tremble.

And we don’t mean just the special interest groups within the Republican Party who have a stranglehold on Idaho politics.

We mean the special interest groups within the Democratic Party who are having their way in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, too.

The common denominator is that any change to elections’ status quo threatens whomever has built a fiefdom, where they alienate vast swaths of what should be their constituents. But the underrepresented are stepping up, in Idaho and elsewhere, to give voice to more voters.

According to excellent reporting by Stateline, ranked-choice voting is gaining popularity nationwide (https://shorturl.at/gvFMU). Fifty-one jurisdictions representing 13 million voters use ranked-choice voting, and Idaho could join that growing roster.

Petitions are now being circulated statewide to open Idaho’s primary elections to all voters. Only registered Republicans can vote in Republican primaries now, meaning two things: some 270,000 independent voters are shut out, and the likelihood of radical candidates winning thus increases.

If 63,000 or more Idahoans sign petitions for the measure, called the Open Primaries Initiative, voters statewide will decide next year if the current election structure needs to change. Those in power are terrified that a true majority of Idaho voters will adopt a system more likely to ensure that the best prospective leaders — not hand-picked political pawns — advance to general elections.

Misinformation campaigns and downright insulting assertions are already flying fast and furious. One of the arguments against ranked-choice voting is that voters are too stupid to understand it — an argument forwarded by both Democrats and Republicans in power nationally. But it’s not complicated at all.

The Open Primaries Initiative would open Idaho primaries to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. All candidates would run on the same ticket in the primary and the top four vote-getters in each race would advance to the general election.

In the general election, voters would pick their favorite in each race and could also rank the other three in order of preference. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, ranked-choice uses a runoff system that eliminates the lowest vote-getters until a winner emerges.

Too often now, Open Primaries Initiative supporters say, the most radical candidates advance to the general election because independents were shut out. That leaves general election voters little choice but to pick "the lesser of two evils."

Why not embrace a system, they say, that gives voters a choice among the greatest of four goods?

The Press strongly encourages citizens to join former Gov. Butch Otter and many other Republicans and sign an Open Primaries Initiative petition. Doing so will empower voters to decide if our current primary and general election systems adequately represent the will of the people.