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OPINION: GOP should uphold electoral process integrity

by DAN GOOKIN
| February 21, 2024 1:00 AM

Data is important. Especially in the realm of Idaho politics, where fear and innuendo dominate the landscape.

A case in point is found in the recent release of the Ninth Annual Idaho Public Policy Survey by Boise State University's School of Public Service. The voters surveyed — by a three-to-one margin — prefer presidential primaries over a caucus. Yet the State GOP leadership has foisted a caucus upon the voters.

I can understand why GOP Chair Dorothy Moon and her inner circle desire a March 2nd caucus. They explain so in their propaganda: They want to be one of the first states in the presidential nominating process. They argue that the May primary is too late in the game for our state to be relevant. Never mind that eight years ago in May, the GOP nomination was still a contest between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

This cycle, only two candidates are left in the GOP race, Trump and Nikki Haley. But they’re campaigning elsewhere, places more relevant to them. Even so, the Idaho GOP is marching forward with a firehouse caucus on March 2 despite an apparent lack of interest by the candidates.

Republican voters have expressed doubt about the process, which many fear will be as chaotic and disorganized as the 2012 GOP presidential caucus. Firehouse caucuses are characterized by their limited accessibility and potential barriers to participation — all attributes that risk disenfranchising a significant portion of Idaho’s Republican voters.

As I understand it, constituents have a slim window of time to arrive before doors lock. Inside, the GOP runs the show — not unbiased government officials. Caucus promoters have busied themselves over the past several weeks, going on the defensive with opinion pieces and attacking those who ask questions. Ironically, while the party argues how the process will be legitimate, they are barring the media from attending, which raises more questions.

The bottom line for me, however, is that the survey data shows voters overwhelmingly want a May primary. They want the process run by trusted officials who oversee our regular elections. This desire is bolstered by other Public Policy survey data, which shows increased pessimism that the state is going off on the wrong track. You would think this would be a priority.

I encourage all Republican voters to attend the caucus. Show up and observe. My hope is that things go well and the public’s voices are heard. But the State GOP must also hear the voices from the survey results as well as those already disenfranchised by the caucus — including our first responders and overseas military.

The State GOP can save time, money, and effort by restoring the May primary. Let’s not disenfranchise voters for the sake of party leadership desperate for national relevancy.

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Dan Gookin works as an activist for transparency and accountability in local government. He is a member of the Coeur d’Alene City Council.