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Closed GOP Primary Has An Impact On Idaho State Employees

Samantha Wright
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s closed Republican primary is having an effect when it comes to voter turnout among state employees. It turns out fewer public workers are voting after the GOP closed their primary in 2012.


Matthew May, a postdoctoral researcher at Boise State University, surveyed four state agencies. Speaking on Boise State Public Radio's Idaho Matters, he says 45 percent of employees said they were now less likely to vote in the closed primary. 


About 90 percent of that group said it was because of partisan registration.


“They felt that their job required them to be impartial or neutral support staff for all parties and in service to the state and the public and they didn’t want to necessarily be perceived as rooting for one team over the other. So there has been a decline in participation among state employees,” May says.


Voter registration rolls list a person's name, party affiliation, and whether they chose a Republican, Democratic, or other ballot. May says state employees know that information is a public record.


Voter turnout has dropped overall since 2012. From 1994 through the 2010 election voter turnout was about 28.8 percent. Since the closed primary, the average turnout has declined to about 24 percent.


“When we’re looking at a statewide voter registration number of with about 809,000 that four percent translates into 34,000 or 35,000 voters, which is the equivalent of the city of Lewiston that is sitting out the election,” May says.


Voter turnout was already on the decline, so May says he needs to see another election or two before he can say just how much the closed primary has affected people going to the polls.


Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio

As Senior Producer of our live daily talk show Idaho Matters, I’m able to indulge my love of storytelling and share all kinds of information (I was probably a Town Crier in a past life!). My career has allowed me to learn something new everyday and to share that knowledge with all my friends on the radio.

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