Friday, December 08, 2023

OPINION: Leave no voter behind

| September 20, 2023 1:00 AM

According to the VA, there are nearly 128,000 military veterans in Idaho. We represent 9% of Idaho’s adult population, which is one of the highest rates in the U.S. Some Idaho vets come from families that have been here for generations and some settled in Idaho after their service. We are as diverse and independent as our fellow Idahoans and care deeply about this great state.

A veterans’ commitment to service carries through to voting. Veterans are more likely to vote (65.8%) than nonveterans (61.7%). Veterans are also more likely to vote as independents. According to Pew Research, 49% of US military veterans preferred not to register with a political party and vote as independents.

When you put these facts together, you realize that military veterans are one of the largest blocks of independent voters in Idaho. However, Idaho’s closed primaries prevent independent veterans from fully participating in our elections. We served our country but can’t vote in primaries. That’s just plain wrong.

Veterans for Idaho Voters ( is a cross-partisan and independent group of Idaho military veterans committed to fair elections, citizen initiatives, civil politics and sensible policies. We are one of the coalition partners supporting the Open Primaries Initiative.

Government works best when there is vigorous competition among candidates and broad citizen participation. Closed primaries are not the Idaho Way. For 80 years from our first primaries in 1931 until 2011, these elections have been open to all. We now have a decade of results that show closed primaries are less competitive, and the winners are determined by fewer voters. In 2022, 96% of Idaho’s 166 legislative primary races were decided by less than the number of registered independent voters. Said another way, the votes of silenced independents could have changed the outcome in 96% of legislative primary races.

The Open Primaries Initiative provides more power for more voters to participate in the elections that their taxes pay for. When Idahoans have the freedom to vote for whom they want, then our elected leaders are more accountable and better represent us.

Most importantly, we believe that Idahoans have a civic duty to ensure that everyone can vote. If Idaho’s elections don’t work for one group — in our case, independent military veterans who swore to defend our nation — then they don’t work for any of us. Let’s work together to fix our elections and commit to leave no voter behind.

• • •

Todd Achilles, (Boise) Army veteran

Marv Hagedorn, (Meridian) Navy veteran

Barry Johnson, (Moscow) Army veteran

Jim Jones, (Boise) Army veteran

Rich Stivers, (Twin Falls) Army veteran

Scott Syme, (Caldwell) Army veteran

Christie Wood, (Coeur d’Alene) Air Force veteran

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