Monday, April 22, 2024

OPINION: Power grab for your vote

by MARY SOUZA/Uncanceled and Unfiltered
| January 26, 2024 1:00 AM

Dear Idaho Republican Voters, Bjorn Handeen wants to cut you out of choosing the Republican candidates who will be in the General Election. He thinks the Republican Precinct Committeemen on the central committees should choose the candidates in the Republican primary, not you the voters. Who is Bjorn Handeen? He represents North Idaho on the Republican State Central Committee. He is also a precinct committeeman on the Kootenai County Central Committee. 

So when it comes to attitudes and plans for voters in Idaho, we should pay attention to Bjorn’s words. He has written and told people for some time that “The nomination of the Republican Party? That is for the Republican Party to decide. Who is the Republican Party?…it is the precinct committeemen. It is their call to make. Too bad we are forced by statute to have a primary.” 

Read that last part again. Bjorn is sad the law gives voters the right to vote in the primary.

This attitude explains a lot about the orchestrated takeover of the Idaho Republican Party by a highly focused group of the extreme right. These are not Republicans. They do not believe in the rights of voters and think you are too dumb to choose the people they want, so they have been changing the rules to get more control.

Their latest change is the presidential primary. There was an effort by good legislators to combine the presidential primary with the county, state and congressional primary in Idaho, which is held in May. Having them all on one date would have increased voter turnout and  saved taxpayers an estimated $2.7 million.  

But that effort was thwarted by Idaho Freedom Foundation legislators and IDGOP folks who want more control. They got their wish by killing a good bill and moving the presidential primary to March 2 as a caucus primary, not our usual safe voting at the polls.

So, dear voters, we are now at the mercy of our current Idaho Republican Party leadership for the upcoming caucus primary. I’m not a fan of that system. Idaho tried it in 2012 and it was a rousing disaster. Many voters still have nightmares about that four-hour ordeal. 

What’s wrong with the caucus system? Let me list just a few of the problems for you:

1. Disenfranchises voters: It causes a large number of qualified voters to be left out of the voting process. You must be present, in-person, on the day and at the exact time of the caucus. No absentee voting. So people who work during that time period, people with young children at home, the ill, the hospitalized, nursing home residents, overseas or out of state military, those on religious missions, college students away at school…the list goes on and on. All of these people, even if they are qualified Republican voters, will not be able to participate in our Idaho Republican presidential primary caucus.

2. Voter turnout for the caucus: Caucuses have a much lower turnout than normal voting methods — see No. 1. A recent Iowa caucus reportedly brought only 14% of registered Republicans out to vote.

3. Security: The entire process of voting is much more vulnerable to manipulation with the caucus system than with our regular county elections at the polls. Did you see the news videos of Iowa’s recent presidential caucus? It showed a crowded room with a brown paper grocery store bag — I’m not kidding — being haphazardly passed above heads as people put their small pieces of note paper, scribbled with their candidate choice, into the bag. Does that seem secure? No thanks, I prefer the polls.

4. Control: The outcome of this year’s presidential primary in Idaho is not in question, we all know this. Our problem is that the IDGOP may now want to run a caucus every time, and they may try to change the rules for all the other primaries like county, state and congress as well. Our local Republican Central Committee (KCRCC) has whispered the goal of their committee deciding the primary winners, without allowing a public vote. Bjorn Handeen is not whispering, he’s saying it out loud. Believe them.

5. Voter turnout in the May primary: This one is very important. When the presidential primary is held separately, like in March, then the regular May primary for county, state, and congress has a much lower turnout, an estimated 20% lower. (People think they’ve already voted in the primary.) Lower turnout of regular voters will give the IDGOP/IFF/KCRCC groups a better chance to get their “rated and vetted” candidates elected.

It’s hard to believe our Republican Central Committee has gone to the dark side of ignoring people’s rights in order to advance their own power. But remember what radical Vincent James Foxx, who moved to Post Falls in 2021 and is connected to David Reilly and others in IFF and the KCRCC, said on his own podcast: “Yes, we are the Christian Taliban. We won’t stop until the Handmaid’s Tale is a reality. We will roll back the last 100 years of women’s rights and it’s even going to get worse for you…All the landscapers in North Idaho are white, all the gardeners are white, all the people working at the fast food places are white. There’s no way to describe North Idaho other than utopia."

When they tell you who they are, believe them. 

These are not Republican values. This is not our Republican Party. It’s time to take it back and that starts with paying attention and getting involved. Do you know your Precinct Committeeman? If not, call the Kootenai County Elections Office (208-446-1030), give them your address and they will find your precinct number and the name of the precinct committee person for your area — you know, the person Bjorn Handeen thinks should do your voting for you. Then pay attention on next May’s primary ballot. The candidates running for your precinct committeeperson will be on your ballot. Do your research and choose wisely. The future of our Idaho Republican Party is literally at stake.

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Mary Souza, a Coeur d'Alene Republican, represented District 4 in the Idaho Senate for eight years from 2014 to 2022.