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Open primaries campaign says it'll be on the November ballot

A voter walks into North Junior High School in Boise during the 2022 primary election.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Organizers for the Idaho Open Primaries initiative said they believe they have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Organizers for Idaho’s open primaries initiative said they’ve gathered enough signatures to qualify the issue for the November general election.

Any ballot initiative this year needs to have collected about 63,000 signatures from registered voters in the state. A portion of those must have also been collected from 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.

Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville said in an email to supporters Monday that they’ve collected more than 92,000 signatures, including enough to qualify 20 legislative districts ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.

“This achievement is the result of the hard work and support of thousands of Idahoans,” Mayville wrote, thanking volunteers, staff and supporters.

Despite touching on different subjects, Mayville says this campaign shares a common bond with the previously successful Medicaid expansion and education funding initiatives: voters feel frustrated.

“Far too many independent voters are being excluded from voting in the most…competitive primary elections and then a whole lot of voters feel like when they show up to vote they just don’t like the quality of the choices that are on their ballot,” he said.

The signatures must still be verified by county clerks, as well as the Idaho Secretary of State’s office in order to officially appear on the ballot.

It would only need a simple majority to pass if it qualifies for the November election.

The initiative would accomplish two things.

First, voters would be able to choose any candidate to support during the primary election without having to affiliate with a particular political party. The top four candidates, regardless of their political party, would then proceed to the general election.

The Idaho Republican Party currently has strict rules requiring voters to affiliate with it to participate in its primary. The GOP holds more than 80% of state legislative seats, as well as all statewide and congressional offices.

Second, the initiative would also implement ranked choice voting during the general election. That means voters would rank each candidate in a particular race from first to last on their ballot.

For contests with more than two candidates, the person with the lowest vote totals will be eliminated and their votes will be reassigned to the remaining candidates based on the voter’s preference.

Under the system, once only two candidates remain, the one with the highest vote total wins.

State lawmakers banned the use of ranked choice voting in 2023, spurred on by the state GOP, which has also criticized the initiative as being anti-democratic.

Many Republican leaders also have said the closed primary is critical to ensuring their candidates are chosen by their own members.

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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