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Former Gov. Butch Otter endorses open primaries initiative

Former Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter speaking to reporters.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Former Idaho Republican Gov. Butch Otter endorses a ballot initiative to open Idaho's primary elections.

A ballot initiative that would open Idaho’s primary elections to all voters got its biggest endorsement yet.

Former Republican Gov. Butch Otter, as well as dozens of other past state lawmakers and officials, signed onto the campaign.

Otter has been an open critic of the closed GOP primary since its inception more than two decades ago.

“Idaho deserves better and Idaho also deserves all the choices that this initiative will give them,” he said at a press conference at the Idaho Capitol Wednesday morning announcing the endorsements.

Right now, only registered Republicans can vote in that party's primary. The state Republican Party also recently adopted rules to limit people from voting in the GOP primary if they were recently registered with another party.

That system, Otter said, favors more extreme candidates who have successfully ousted more moderate legislators in recent years.

“What I see today is a lot of people that are running for office, unfortunately most of them on the Republican side, that haven’t got the skill to convince people to be on their side so the only thing they can do is tear them down personally.”

Notably, no sitting state representatives or senators endorsed the campaign among the 116 signatures released to the public.

“I’ve spoken to [several people] in this building and I’m not at liberty to tell you who I spoke to, nor whether or not they agreed with me,” Otter said.

Current Gov. Brad Little’s (R) son and daughter-in-law, David and Kelsey Little put their names on the list.

Madison Hardy, Little's spokesperson said in a statement, “Members of the Governor's family are free to exercise their First Amendment rights and participate in government as they choose.”

Hardy didn't reply when asked about whether the governor supports the initiative himself.

In addition to letting registered voters choose among candidates of any political party in the primary, the proposal would implement ranked choice voting for the general election.

The top four candidates in a given primary race, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election which would use a ranked choice voting system.

If no candidate receives a majority in the first round of counting, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

Those who selected the losing candidate as their first choice would then have their votes redirected to their next preferred candidate until one ultimately earns a majority.

The campaign still needs to get roughly 63,000 signatures from across the state for the initiative to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.

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

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

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.

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