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Unaffiliated voters may have a new hoop to jump through for Idaho's primary

"Vote Here" sign in front of a Boise Library location.
James Dawson
/
Boise State Public Radio

A new bill introduced in the Idaho House would make it harder for unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot in the state’s primary elections.

Right now, if you’re an unaffiliated voter, meaning you’re not registered with any political party (including Independents), you can join any party you’d like at the polls and vote in their primary.

But a new bill from Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy (R-Genesee) would force unaffiliated voters to choose a party months ahead of an election.

“Currently, if you’re a Democrat or Republican, the only time you can change your party affiliation is at this same date,” Troy said.

For the 2022 primary, that deadline is March 11.

Unaffiliated voters make up the second-largest voting bloc in Idaho.

As of Dec. 1, 2021, the latest data from the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, 31% of all voters are unaffiliated. Republicans account for 53% of Idaho voters, while Democrats are 13% of the electorate.

The Idaho GOP closed its primary in 2011, meaning only registered Republicans can choose among its candidates who hold supermajorities in the legislature and all statewide elected offices.

“We support a level playing field with the rules being applied equally and fairly for all voters to engage in the voting process,” said Tyler Kelly, executive director of the Idaho Republican Party.

But the state Democratic party blasted the proposal.

“This is another example of extremist efforts within the Idaho Republican Party to close ranks and exclude a majority of Idahoans from the ballot box,” said Avery Roberts, communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party.

Democrats allow unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot in their primaries.

The proposal wouldn’t apply to anyone who registers to vote for the first time at the polls.

A House committee could hold a public hearing on the bill as early as next week.

Voters can check their status, update their registration and request an absentee ballot online or at their county clerk’s office.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!