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New primary election date clears Idaho Senate

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho could soon move its primary election date – including presidential nominating contests – to April under a bill approved by the Senate on Friday.

The proposal would hold all primary elections on the third Tuesday each April. Last year, legislators mistakenly axed the presidential primary date from state law. Both Republicans and Democrats opted for caucuses.

The Idaho Capital Sun found roughly 7% of registered Republicans voted in the presidential caucus last week.

That figure was even lower in Republican Sen. Treg Bernt’s district in Meridian.

“Not even 5% of those that are able to vote in District 21 voted,” said Bernt. “Senators, that number is far too low and it doesn’t even compare to the amount of people who would vote in a presidential primary.”

The process also excludes several groups of people from voting, including deployed military members and those who are homebound.

The Democratic Party will allow registered party members and unaffiliated voters to cast an absentee ballot if they cannot attend its presidential caucus in-person on May 23.

“My constituents don’t like that they don’t get a chance to go to the polls. And my constituents don’t like that people who are serving this country overseas don’t get a chance to participate,” said Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon (R-Burley), who supported the bill.

But Sen. Cindy Carlson (R-Riggins) said an April primary leaves little time for sitting lawmakers to campaign for re-election.

“It’s hard enough as it is to stay focused on what we’re doing here in the Senate,” said Carlson. “I do not want to be focused on a re-election campaign when we’re headed for a primary in April.”

Idaho’s political parties would still be able to choose whether they would hold a presidential caucus in four years under the bill.

House lawmakers will consider the issue next.

Copyright 2024 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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