I would love to be wrong ...
But I regret to report that — if historic trends prevail — Tuesday is gong to be another dud in Idaho May Primary voter participation.
Despite all of the appeals we in the media put out, and all of the nudging from the candidates — which, in some of the presidential primaries around the country even included the creepy process of “vote shaming” — somewhere around 475,000 to half a million Idahoans who will vote in the November general election will pass on this Tuesday primary.
This is pretty amazing when you consider:
Never miss a local story.
▪ How fired up we can get when the Legislature is in session and a controversial bill is being debated. It sometimes causes us to say we want to “vote somebody out.” But the passion burns out somewhere along the fuse before it ever reaches the powder.
▪ How impressive the turnout was for the GOP and Democrat primaries in March.
▪ How much is riding on the West Ada Recall elections, the Ada County Commissioner races, open seats in the Legislature and the impressive field of candidates up for a seat on the Idaho Supreme Court.
The Idaho Statesman’s Bill Dentzer did an amazing job two weeks ago spelling out what is at stake in Tuesday’s primary elections.
Yet all signs point to another primary where “The Gap” between the numbers who vote in the general election and those who will weigh in Tuesday will be big enough to drive a fleet of Big Idaho Potato Trucks through.
According to data provided by Phil McGrane, chief deputy in the Ada County Clerk’s office, the Gap has been steadily growing in fits and starts since 1980. Just 36 years ago there was only a 35 percent gap between the numbers of folks who voted in the general election and those who voted in the primary. The last three presidential elections — 2004, 2008 and 2012 —it has been at or above 50 percent.
Let’s put this into perspective by taking a close look at what could happen in Idaho Supreme Court race. If one of the four candidates gets 50 percent of the vote plus 1 on Tuesday, that race is over. Looking at how tight this race appears to be, I’m guessing that none of the four — Robyn Brody, Curt McKenzie, Sergio Gutierrez or Clive Strong — will reach that threshold. So that means two will advance in a runoff at the November general election.
So, if you don’t vote in Tuesday’s primary, there is a possibility you won’t get to weigh in at all on that race — or, when you do, your choice will already have been cut in half by somebody else.
“The majority gets their say in the general election —but not until the minority gets to choose who you will get to pick from,” said McGrane.
Is that what we want? Deep down, I don’t think it is what we want — but it is what we allow. And it looks like we’re about to allow it again.
Early voting for the Tuesday primary is about what it was in the 2012 presidential election, but requests for absentee ballots are markedly down: 3,761 in Ada County this presidential year compared to 4,956 in 2012 and 5,110 in 2008.
McGrane and colleagues who study Idaho elections are making some turnout projections for Ada County: 16 to 17 percent of registered voters; 12.3 percent of all eligible voters.
I am quite concerned that they are right, but as I said earlier, I would love to be wrong ...
Idaho Freedom Foundation Freedom Index
Earlier this month I heard from Richard Larsen of Pocatello. He offered a Guest Opinion critical of the IFF’s “Freedom Index” for evaluating bills and candidates. I said I would be happy to run that if I could get a counter-point piece from the IFF. The organization’s vice president, Fred Birnbaum, obliged. You can link to the pro-con on the bottom of this page.
For those of you who have yet to vote, I wanted to make sure you have as much information as possible at your disposal to help you make your decision. There is no better place to do that than our online May 2016 Treasure Valley Voter’s Guide.
Editorial Board endorsements for Tuesday’s primary:
West Ada School District Recall of Trustees: Against recall of Tina Dean and Carol Sayles.
Idaho Supreme Court: Clive Strong.
District 2 Ada County Board of Commissioners: Democrat TJ Thomson, Republican Teri Murrison.
District 3 Ada County Board of Commissioners: David Case
Canyon County Sheriff: Republican Kieran Donahue