Guest Commentary: Legislature should approve May primary


December 5, 2023

With 10 declared candidates, the 2024 Republican Presidential Primary represents a true choice during the upcoming election. Unlike the Democrats who’re settling for Biden, Republicans will have an opportunity to make their voice heard in future primaries. But not in Idaho.

During the 2023 legislative session, we planned to consolidate all spring elections into May. This decision meant school levies and bonds, along with the presidential primary, would happen in May. Consolidating the elections and moving the primary to May will save Idaho taxpayers $2.5 million per election. Holding a presidential primary with our other elected offices also increases voter participation. So, what happened? Why won’t we have a presidential primary in May?

The legislation signed by Gov. Little did end the presidential primary in March. But a technical loophole meant the primary didn’t get moved to May. The Senate passed a simple fix. Then, when the bill arrived in the House, Dorothy Moon, the current Republican state party chair, objected in public testimony.

From the beginning of the legislative session, Moon resisted this cost-saving move to shift the primary. She insisted that the March date made Idaho more attractive for presidential candidates. But even with a March election date in the 2016 cycle, most Republican presidential candidates didn’t visit our state.

We love our state, but Idaho doesn’t offer the location or the media market to attract presidential candidates. Every hour on the campaign trail needs to maximize candidates’ resources. Most candidates can’t justify spending time and money to campaign in Idaho when they need support and delegates in other places.

Moon’s refusal to support a cost-saving election consolidation led the Idaho Republican Party to adopt an expensive presidential caucus as an alternative during its summer meeting. A caucus in place of a primary carries a hefty price tag for our county central committees. It also limits participation.

Few Idaho communities have public spaces capable of holding hundreds, let alone thousands of people. By design, a caucus requires hours to cast a vote. This process tends to exclude Idahoans who can’t take time off work, struggle with physical disabilities, lack childcare, or are serving out of state or overseas.

The first bill we pass in the 2024 legislative session should officially move the presidential primary to May. While we recognize that other events may limit the role of Idaho’s 2024 presidential primary, it remains the fairest and safest way for Idahoans to choose their nominees. Fiscal conservatives should want to consolidate Idaho’s elections rather than stick the taxpayer with a $2.5 million bill.

All Idahoans deserve an opportunity to cast a vote and select their candidate for president. Our job is to fix this problem and give Idahoans the opportunity to choose their candidate. The problem is obvious, and the solution is simple.

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