Idaho GOP convention committee approves rule to limit ‘crossover voting’

Proposed rule would disqualify voters who donate to or vote in other party elections

By: - July 15, 2022 4:20 am
Voters fill out ballots at a polling place in a school library

Voters cast their ballots at Timberline High School during the Idaho Primary on May 17, 2022. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

The delegates of the Idaho Republican Party attending the state convention will decide in the next two days whether to approve a rule disqualifying voters affiliated with other parties from registering as Republicans to vote in the party’s primary elections.

The Idaho GOP closed its primary process starting in 2012 so that only registered Republicans can vote for the candidate they want to advance to the general election — where Republicans dominate so heavily that a primary win often guarantees election to a seat. 

The proposed rule was drafted by Branden Durst, a former Democratic legislator who joined the Republican party in 2020 and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction in the May primary. The rule passed out of the GOP convention committee on Thursday and will need a majority of affirmative votes from the party delegates to be officially adopted.

Durst told the Idaho Capital Sun he wasn’t in a position to talk about the rule until Saturday.

Branden Durst
Branden Durst, a former Democratic legislator who joined the Republican party in 2020 and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for superintendent of public instruction in the May primary, proposed the rule. (Courtesy of Idaho Reports)

The rule states that county and legislative district central committees can determine the political affiliation of people who file or intend to file as candidates for the Republican Party. It outlines how a voter can be disqualified from registering with the Idaho Republican Party, such as those who:

  • Affiliated less than 12 months before the next primary election held in an even-numbered year
  • Disaffiliated with the Republican Party at any time in the past 39 months
  • Financially supported more than one candidate of a different political party for office less than 25 months before the primary
  • Affiliated with any other political party less than 25 months before the primary
  • Voted in a primary or caucus for any other political party less than 25 months before the primary

The proposed rule didn’t specify how the party would police its voters’ affiliation history or campaign contributions. It did not specify who would be responsible for that task.

Tyler Kelly, executive director of the Idaho Republican Party, said there is usually a “hot topic” at the convention each year it is held, and he’s not surprised the rule made it out of committee. But he hopes the majority of the delegates don’t adopt it.

“It’s my hope that the party errs on the side of inclusion,” Kelly said. “I think it becomes difficult when the party starts determining who can and cannot register. It’s my belief, and (GOP Chairman Tom Luna’s) belief as well, that we should err on the side of inclusion at all times.”

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Durst lost to former Idaho State Board of Education president Debbie Critchfield and said the day after the primary that the Republican Party “must address its Democrat primary crossover problem.” He and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who lost her bid for governor to Gov. Brad Little in the primary, both claimed tens of thousands of Democrats crossed over to vote in the primary. Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said in May that those numbers were not reflected in the voter rolls.

The Idaho Democratic Party has an open primary, allowing any registered voter to participate. Democratic Party spokesperson Avery Roberts said the proposed rule is particularly egregious coming from Durst.

“From his extremist views on reproductive rights to his efforts to defund public education, it’s clear Durst is not a Democrat. What isn’t clear is why he thinks he should get special treatment,” Roberts said in a statement. “He certainly didn’t wait 25 months after losing a Democratic primary in Washington state to rise through the ranks of the Idaho Republican Party.”

Durst ran a losing legislative campaign as a Democrat in Washington in 2016. Two years later, he ran a losing campaign for Boise School District trustee, a nonpartisan seat.

The Idaho GOP convention will continue through Saturday evening, during which time party delegates will vote on proposed rules, resolutions and changes to the party platform. The delegates will also elect party officers, including the chairperson, on Saturday.

2022 IDGOP Convention Rule Proposals

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.

MORE FROM AUTHOR