Idaho’s open primary supporters cleared to gather signatures, but will weigh legal options
Idahoans for Open Primaries says ballot titles supplied by AG are designed to mislead the public
Organizers with Idahoans for Open Primaries are attempting qualify a ballot initiative for the November 2024 general election. (Courtesy of Idahoans for Open Primaries)
The state cleared supporters of a proposed open primary ballot initiative to begin collecting signatures to qualify the initiative for the 2024 general election, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office announced Friday afternoon.
However, supporters of the initiative said they will spend a few days deciding whether to challenge the ballot titles that were assigned by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, said Luke Mayville, the co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, which joined the Idahoans For Open Primaries coalition that is supporting the ballot initiative.
The short ballot title issued by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office reads, “MEASURE TO (1) REPLACE VOTER SELECTION OF PARTY NOMINEES WITH NONPARTY BLANKET PRIMARY; (2) REQUIRE RANKED-CHOICE VOTING FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS.”
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The full text of the initiative, along with the new ballot titles supplied by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, is posted online.
Under Idaho law, anyone who is dissatisfied with the ballot titles may appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court.
“We’ve identified several falsehoods that appear to be intentionally designed to mislead the public,” Idahoans for Open Primaries wrote in a written statement Friday afternoon. “Within the next few days, we will determine whether it’s in our best interest to challenge the titles in court.”
The start of the signature drive is pending while open primary supporters determine whether to challenge the ballot titles in court, Mayville said.
What would the Idaho open primary ballot initiative do?
If it qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, the initiative would make a couple of changes.
- It would eliminate Idaho’s closed primary election system and replace it with a primary election where all candidates run together regardless of party affiliation and all voters would vote in the same primary, regardless of party affiliation. The four candidates who receive the most votes would advance to the general election.
- The initiative would also change Idaho’s general elections and create a new instant runoff, or ranked choice voting system. Under that system, voters would vote for their favorite candidate and then rank each of the three remaining candidates by preference, picking a second choice, third choice and fourth choice on the same ballot. If one of the candidates receives more than 50% of the vote, that candidate is elected the winner. If nobody receives more than 50% of the vote, then the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated and their votes would automatically be transferred to each voter’s second choice of candidate. That process would repeat until one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote and is elected the winner. Under that system, Idahoans would only vote one time, and their second and third choice preferences would decide any instant runoffs that are created if a candidate does not receive a majority of the votes in the first round of voting.
What is a closed primary election in Idaho?
Since 2011, Idaho has had a closed primary election law that means people who are not registered with a political party may not participate in that party’s primary elections. The law also allows political parties to instead open their primary election if party leaders notify the state. During the most recent primary elections in 2022, only the Idaho Democratic Party has held open primary elections, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office previously told the Idaho Capital Sun.
Supporters of the open primary initiative have until April 30 to collect signatures from 6% of registered voters statewide (about 63,000 voters) and 6% of voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts. If they meet those qualifications, the open primary initiative would appear in the November 2024 election, and it would need a simple majority of votes to be approved.
On May 31, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued a certificate of review of the ballot initiative that raised concerns about conflicts with the Idaho Constitution and state laws, the Sun previously reported. The open primary supporters, including former Idaho Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Jones, disagreed with review from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office and expressed concerns Attorney General Raúl Labrador injected his personal views into the review. Before the review, on May 2, Labrador posted a tweet about the initiative that said, in part, “Let’s defeat these bad ideas coming from liberal outside groups.”
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office issued a written statement about the review on June 20.
“The initiative proponents incorporated many of the recommended changes our office proposed,” the statement read. “It is no secret that Jim Jones has an unhealthy obsession with AG Labrador. His criticisms at this point aren’t grounded in the law but based entirely on his personal biases. If the media is searching for opposing legal views, surely they can find someone more objective.”
Efforts to reach the Idaho Attorney General’s Office on Friday were unsuccessful.
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