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OPINION: Presidential Caucus fact check

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| January 12, 2024 1:00 AM

“I’m a lifetime Republican and I’m really worried I won’t be able to participate in the Presidential Caucus,” said Jim, an 89-year-old combat veteran during a call with Idaho GOP Chairman Dorothy Moon. Jim called the state party headquarters after reading Sandy Patano’s “Opinion: Idaho GOP's Presidential Caucus confusion,” an OpEd full of misleading information, half-truths and outright lies. 

One of the few facts in the article is that Patano is a founding member of North Idaho “Republicans” or NIR, a shadowy organization not officially part of Idaho’s Republican Party. NIR was fined the maximum amount allowed for campaign finance reporting violations by the Secretary of State and they received a Cease and Desist letter from the Republican National Committee’s General Council to stop them from falsely using the Republican brand.

NIR founders include never-Trumpers and Biden supporters and, unlike the official Republican Party whose members who are elected by the people, NIR members are self-appointed. They hold secretive meetings where they have physically ejected elected Idaho Republican legislators because they were not “their” kind of Republican. NIR members have used the progressive Democrat tactics of false accusation, bullying, guilt by association and outright lies in their propaganda campaign.

NIR members have claimed the Republican Party is full of racists, “groypers” and anti-Semites and that when good conservative legislators vote against bloated spending bills it is the same as “defunding the police.” The 2023 Idaho State Police appropriations bill had an 18.8% increase over the 2021 base, included 22 new salaried positions, and over $18,000 to pay the lab fees for drug testing race horses (competitors currently pay those fees). Protecting Idaho voters from runaway spending and special interest payoffs is what NIR calls “defunding the police.”

Most NIR claims are so absurd that they only deserve to be mocked. However the misinformation NIR presented about the Presidential Caucus needs to be corrected. To date, no NIR members have participated in organizing or volunteered for the Presidential Caucus so they have no direct knowledge. 

What will happen is on Saturday March 2 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time, Noon Mountain Time the Caucus will open. You will present your government issued photo ID, sign the Poll Book and receive a stamp on the back of your hand. The program will start at Noon Pacific, 1 p.m. Mountain. After an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance and a few words from the Caucus Captain the five-minute candidate presentations will begin. To receive your ballot you show your hand stamp, which will be canceled by a second stamp and you will be issued a ballot. There will be a privacy area for you to mark you ballot which you will then deposit in the ballot box. It’s just that simple.

Here are some of the false claims made by NIR and the facts from the IDGOP and the Presidential Caucus Handbook.

False Claim: The Idaho GOP eliminated the Presidential Primary.

FACT: House Bill 138 was presented as moving the Presidential Primary from March to May but what it really did was to eliminate the Presidential Primary altogether, disenfranchising EVERY Republican voter. The Idaho Republican Party (IDGOP) supported and lobbied to repeal this bill but the legislature’s leadership was not interested in calling an emergency session. The 218 members of the IDGOP Central Committee voted to establish a “Firehouse” Caucus on Saturday March 2.

False Claim: The Caucus will “cut the average voter out of the primary election process” 

FACT: The Caucus is open to ALL affiliated Republican voters and just like regular voting you will need to go to the location assigned to your precinct and present photo ID to vote.

False Claim: Only eligible voters with a postcard Golden Ticket will be admitted.

FACT: Every registered voter who was affiliated with the Republican Party before January 1st 2024 will receive a courtesy postcard informing them of their precinct name and the location of their Caucus. When you arrive you will need to know the name of your precinct so you know which precinct Poll Book will have your name listed. If you don’t know your precinct there will be precinct maps so you just have to point to where you live. The postcard is not required but will speed your check-in if you have it. 

False Claim: The Caucus will be a prolonged, hours long “dumpster fire” event.

FACT: The Presidential Caucus in 2012 did take several hours because it had multiple rounds of voting to determine a single winner. The 2024 Caucus will have a single round of voting and could takes as little as a few minutes if all you want to do is cast your vote and not listen to the 5 minute candidate presentations. 

False Claim: Results will be secretly tabulated by IDGOP party members.

FACT: The ballots will be transparently tabulated immediately after balloting finishes at each of the 215 caucus locations statewide. Ballots will be hand counted by at least two tabulators that were nominated by the Caucus Captain and affirmed by the voters at that location. Witnesses assigned by the campaigns and any voters who wish to remain will be allowed to observe, but not interfere, with the tabulation.  Ballots must be counted twice and both totals must match exactly or they must be counted again. The results for each caucus location will be entered onto a Tabulation Sheet, signed by the Tabulators and the Captain and then transmitted to IDGOP headquarters. The Poll Books, Tabulation Sheet and all cast, spoiled and unused ballots, will be sealed in a box and securely transported to the IDGOP headquarters for canvasing. 

False Claim: Countless professionals, constrained by work commitments may find it impossible to participate in person, members of the military and parents with small children will be disenfranchised.

FACT: The Caucus is being held midday on a Saturday specifically so that working voters will be able to participate. There are 579,773 Republican affiliated voters in Idaho. 582 of those, 0.1%, have mailing address outside the lower 48 states and a fraction of those are deployed military. Minor children can accompany their parents to the Caucus. 

Your Idaho Republican Party has a dedicated team working every day to ensure the 2024 Presidential Caucus is a success. The Presidential Caucus is funded by the IDGOP, your local Republican Central Committee and fees from the six Presidential Candidates. The Caucus will save Idaho taxpayers the 2.7 million dollars it costs to hold a primary election.

It seems that for political reasons there are those who want the Presidential Caucus to fail. You probably shouldn’t take caucus advice from those people.

It’s just common sense.

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