Idaho Reps. Moyle, Crane say no agreement yet on special legislative session

Some legislators want to reinstate a presidential primary election, but an Oct. 1 deadline looms 

By: - September 15, 2023 4:15 am
Idaho Senate In Session

The Idaho Senate in session at the Idaho Capitol in Boise on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

A proposal by the Idaho Senate to call a special session of the Idaho Legislature to reinstate the presidential primary election in May does not have the votes to advance in the Idaho House of Representatives, said Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa. 

“The position the Senate has taken is not going to pass in (the) House State Affairs (Committee),” Crane, the committee’s chairman, said in a telephone interview Thursday. “The political will is not there to move the primary election from March to May. There was an attempt to do that during the legislative session with Senate Bill 1186, but it died for lack of a motion.”

Meanwhile, Crane said support is building in the Idaho House for a different proposal that could reinstate the presidential primary in March.


The issue relates to the presidential primary election that the Idaho Legislature seemingly unintentionally eliminated during the 2023 legislative session. Idaho had been conducting a presidential primary election in March. But this year Idaho legislators passed House Bill 138, which was advertised as a bill to save the state $2.7 million every four years by moving the presidential primary election from March to May, when the rest of the state’s primary elections take place. However, instead of moving the presidential primary election to May, the bill simply eliminated the presidential primary election altogether. Gov. Brad Little signed the bill into law March 30 and the Idaho Legislature adjourned for the year on April 6 without reinstating the presidential primary election. 

On Sept. 6, Republican leaders in the Idaho Senate said they reached the necessary 60% support for a petition to call a special session of the Idaho Legislature to consider a bill that would move the presidential primary election to May and give political parties the choice on whether they wanted to participate in the presidential primary election or instead conduct their own caucus. 

Under the Idaho Legislature’s new power to call itself back into session, it takes 60% of the members of both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate to sign a petition in order to convene a special session of the Idaho Legislature. 

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Crane’s remarks cast doubt on whether enough legislators will coalesce behind a petition before an Oct. 1 Republican Party deadline. During the Idaho Republican Party’s summer meeting in June, party leaders voted to hold a presidential nominating caucus in March unless the Idaho Legislature restores the March presidential primary election by Oct. 1. 

Crane said the May election date is a nonstarter for too many members of the Idaho House.

“This is a party function and the party likes to have that take place in March so they can be part of the Super Tuesday process,” Crane said. “That is the House’s position.”

House Speaker Mike Moyle, R-Star, confirmed Thursday that there is not enough support at this time in the Idaho House to reach the 60% threshold necessary to convene a special session on the Idaho Senate’s petition. 

However, Moyle and Crane said members of the Idaho House are discussing a different proposal that could effectively repeal House Bill 138 and reinstate the presidential primary election in March. 

Moyle said Thursday there has been “some movement this week for sure on the House side toward a March primary for president.”

Crane echoed those remarks, saying legislators from both the Idaho House and Idaho Senate are having regular discussions.

“I have had several members contact me and say they like the idea (of a March primary),” Crane said. “Both chambers are starting to look at it and a lot of folks are saying ‘let’s talk about this idea and see if we can’t come up with a solution for everybody.’”


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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.