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Politics & Government

8 Things You Need To Know To Vote In Idaho’s Primary

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Samantha Wright
Boise State Public Radio

So you’re planning to vote in a Primary on Tuesday.  Here’s what you need to know: 

  1. Where to vote:  Idaho went through a contentious redistricting process over the last year - a requirement for every state every ten years.  Legislative voting districts were shuffled and lines were re-drawn.  As a result, many local precincts have changed.  Phil McGrane, the Chief Deputy for the Ada County Clerk, says his office renumbered and re-drew all precincts.  McGrane is also moving away from having polling places on private property.  He prefers placing the polls in schools or government buildings.  That means there’s a very good chance your polling place has changed.  Check with your county’s election office to find out where you’re supposed to vote.  
  2. Proving you’re you:  Idaho changed its law in 2010, to make voters prove who they are before they vote.  If you have a photo ID, like a driver’s license, or even a college ID with your picture on it, take it with you  Tuesday.  You’ll have to show it to poll workers in order to vote.  However, the ACLU of Idaho says there are currently 20 million Americans who do not have a state issued photo I.D., most being the elderly, young, disabled and African Americans.  Don’t panic, you can still vote.  But you must fill out a Personal Identification Affidavit that says you’re really you.  Poll workers will have these forms on hand in every precinct.  Make sure you get one if you don’t have an ID.
  3. Closed Primary:  This year, Idaho made the switch to a closed primary system.  The Idaho Republican Party sued the state to make this happen, as Party Executive Director Jonathan Parker explains. “We do believe that it is our right to essentially let Republicans chose Republican candidates, Democrats choose Democrat candidates, as these are the candidates who will be our standard bearers, carrying the torch for the Republican Party in November.”
  4. You must affiliate with a Political Party in order to vote:  As part of the GOP’s closed primary, you must now chose a political party before you can vote.  Ada County Election Specialist Shannon Hohl says you have five choices in Idaho, ““A voter can choose to be Republican, Constitution, Democrat, Libertarian, or Unaffiliated.”  That could be a challenge for the 37 percent of Idahoans who label themselves Independent, according to a 2011 Public Policy Survey by Boise State University.  There is no recognized Independent party in Idaho, so Independent voters will have to choose something else.
  5. Your affiliation may limit your voting choices:  In order to vote in the Republican Primary, you must register as a Republican.  Republicans have the most choices.  They can vote the GOP, Democrat, or Unaffiliated ticket.  But Constitution, Democrat, Libertarian, or Unaffiliated voters can only vote the Democratic or Unaffiliated ballot.  That’s because Republicans closed their primary, while Democrats left theirs open.  That means anyone can vote Democrat.
  6. You must choose a ballot:  After you choose a Party, you have to pick one of three ballots: Republican, Democrat, or Unaffiliated.  Only those registered as Republicans can pick the Republican ballot.   McGrane says urges voters to make sure they know what ballot they want.  That’s because once you pick your ballot, you’re stuck with it, even if it’s not what you wanted.  Poll workers cannot re-issue you a different ballot once you’ve taken it.  Election officials are pushing this point, in part, because the Unaffiliated ballot has just three races on it.  Those three are for unopposed judges.  McGrane and others worry that voters might choose the unaffiliated ballot, take it to the polling booth, and realize it doesn’t have any contested races.  They may want to change their mind at that point, but by then, it’s too late.  Know what you want before you pick your ballot.  If you’re not sure, ask to see the ballot ahead of time, before you officially chose it.
  7. New consequences to voting:  Before the Closed Primary system became law in Idaho, voters could pick a party’s ballot without anyone knowing which party they voted for.  Now, your choice of political party, AND your choice of ballot are recorded, and considered public record.  That means anyone can file a Public Records Request with any county, and learn who you affiliated with, and which party’s primary you voted in.  That public record could have consequences for voters who work jobs where impartiality is important.  That includes journalists, government workers (like those in Legislative Services), or even business owners.
  8. If you aren’t sure about anything, ask:  Poll workers have received special training this year to handle questions from voters on the new process.  If they don’t know the answer, they’ll call an election judge to help.  Ada County will have people standing by the phones, to answer any questions you might have on Election Day.  You can also find more information from your county’s website, or the Secretary of State’s voting guide.